I just got the O.k. from George over at Eden. All Squirrels Must Be Eaten is a go! Just what the world needs, a squirrel game involving Zombies…
Now all I need to decide is what the second title for GenCon will be. First thoughts:
Squirrel Wars : Episode XLI: A Nut Hope – A brave band of squirrels face off against all odds to steal Darth Vader’s Nuts. Between them and the nuts, Vaders lap dog, Darth Fido. On the side of good, Han Solo-Cup, Princess Leia Organicnuts, Omagod Gonutti, Luke Landrunner and many more.
Squirrels In Space : The Nut on the Edge of Whenever – The captain and his crew make time travel their bitch. They desparately try to save Ensign Ted Meete for another episode despite being drugged out of his gourd.
There are more but those are the two that leap to mind.
I am a strong believer in “My equipment lists suck”. This is mostly because when I run a game, I am the type of GM that does not worry that much about money and often will just let the little things go. Want a flash light? I am not going to make you take 20 minutes out of game time to go and negotiate with the Ace Hardware guy over the lumens of the flashlight you want. Want a Dragonov Sniper Rifle? Well, then we might have a mini adventures on our hands.
This bleeds over to my game design. I often have what I would term “Don’t sweat the small stuff” approach to equipment in my games. Zombipocalypse is making this rise to the front of my consciousness. Here, I need to have a scavenging system and I think I came up with a neat enough one. All items have a Rarity. This is a number between 1 and 10. When scavenging, a player adds the Rarity to a target number (say 9) and then rolls 3d6 and tries to beat it. The GM can adjust the number (looking for ammo in a knitting store will be different than doing so in a gun store) for conditions and locale. The player may add Mind and Scavenging to the roll. I think it will make it somewhat fun.
Still, I need to write the equipment list…:(
More talk over on our forums got me thinking about the “Miss Factor”. Clash and I talked about this once and he said basically that he shoots for about 50% hit factor or better. I have to agree with this but will say that I vary from this if I can provide something else for players to do. See, I feel if you can provide parrying, dodging, blocking or some way for everyone in the combat to feel involved you can have more misses. If it is just “I roll. You roll. I roll…” into infinity then yeah, that gets old fast and we need to go back to rule 1. However, if you have “I swing my sword! He parries and thrusts. I catch it on my shield!” and those actions involve rolls and tactics, well, now you have a game!
Over in our forums Skynet has been tweaking Iridium V1 combat. One of the issues he expressed is the progression of stat bonuses. I am a fan of “If you have a 1-20 stat range, a 21 means SOMETHING BIG”. He prefers a more linear progression of stats. I have heard this criticism in reviews of Iridium and I appreciate it but I like the idea of a curve. Why? Because you often see how an elf or a human hero is strong beyond that of a normal men, perhaps even super naturally strong. This is not because of a girdle of strength or galoshes of might but because of the nature of the hero. It is in him.
Now, I am not saying Skynet is wrong (and I am actually helping him change the system) but I wanted to give my rationale behind stat progression as a design choice. So, what do you think? Linear or curved?
Recently I was told, yet again, that HinterWelt is not Indie enough to play in Indie reindeer games. I am not really too broken up by this but it has always made me chuckle. I think of HinterWelt as Small Press more and that groups me with company I like better anyway like Clash Bowley from Flying Mice Games and Brett Bernstain at Precis Intermedia. The difference you ask? The best I have seen is the Small Press run a business (meaning they produce titles with making money in mind) and Indie is an effort of art. Don’t get me wrong, the art of game design is a consideration in Small Press and Indie titles do make money sometimes. It is a matter of focus.
As to Indie, I have heard 3 definitions.
- Creator owned and controlled IP rights.
- Avant Guard game design
- Friend of the Forge (an indie game design site).
HinterWelt definitely foll sinto the first. We have done one title (Roma True20) where we used another writer to do the conversion from our house system (Iridium) to True20. Still, most all of the book was my writing and ideas. I don;t do my art (Clash has me beat there) but that seems forgivable from what I have read. So, let’s consider that a check.
Second point, says Avant Guard. Hmm, I write games about playing magical squirrels from the fairy realm of Nuttopia as they come to this world for as many reasons as stealing our nuts to recovering wedding pie. But I get it, it is the system that hangs them up. Iridium is not GMless, narrative control in the hands of the players type game. That said, Iridium Lite has Karma points and narrative control mechanisms in the hands of the players…oops, what the hell happened there? I have to give HinterWelt the check on this one as well. I think we are pretty edgy.
Finally, we have the friend of the Forge requirement. I can’t argue that. I have always thought little of game theory. It is interesting enough for a half our discussion after the game session but more than that an my eyes glaze over. Not because I cannot follow but because most theory is a desparate attempt to codify the obvious.
So, yeah, I guess HinterWelt fails the acid test for Indie but, as I have often said, I am happy being Small Press.
Recently, HinterWelt was dropped from traditional distribution by Key 20. This has caused a few hiccups but in all, it could have been much worse. I am lucky though, in that I have made some contacts and have some folks who actually know me in the industry. Amongst these are the folks over at ACD (one of the big distributors). Now, normally, small press like HinterWelt go through companies called fulfillment companies that collect up all the small press and offer them up to the big distributors like Alliance and ACD. This adds a step and an expense.
Hmm, a quick “How it works” for those who do not know. Publishers sell their books at about a 60% discount to Distributors. Distributors then sell these books at about a 40-45% discount to the retailers. Retailers, if they are lucky, sell the books to the public at the MSRP (Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price). Now, with small press, there just is not the volume that distributors need to make money considering shipping and such. So, fulfillment houses come in and they take another 6-8%. This generally will get you listed at most of the distributors but the new paradigm is to stock such titles on demand. In the case of some distributors they have created confusing systems and designations that get retailers thinking that some small press are out of business. This is a great pain.
Now, I am not “in” with ACD but at least they will listen as I have run promotions with them in the past and Brad and I have talked at GTS and such. At least they will consider my application. I ahve long since gone to sellign direct and through a number of less traditional outlets. I think we have a pretty good shot at keeping this avenue open but only time will tell.
This coming March 21st I will be running an adventure called “Zombipocalypse: A Day at the Zoo”. Chicago Gameday goes on at the great FLGS Games Plus. When the sign up starts I will post a link here and at a number of the fora I frequent.
A Day at the Zoo is set in Chicago at the Brookfield Zoo where a Rhesus Monkey is thought to be immune from the Virus. Your group is set to flee to a hold out of the National Guard in Des Moines but first you need to get the monkey so that researchers might be able to find out what makes it immune and maybe save mankind.
I had an idea when I was thinking up The System for Zombipocalypse. I wanted some mechanic to help characters stand out and help reinforce a certain level of “I am special” feeling. This is generally a good philosophy if you are designing an RPG system. I had an old system I wrote some 20 years ago called “Bizarre Tales”. Very light weight stuff but it had Schticks. Schticks were essentially “Things you character could do”. So, (and this was pulp genre) you might have Iron Jaw and be able to resist interrogation by physical means. Or you might be a Crack Shot and able to shoot the cigarette out of a mans mouth at 50 paces. So, I thought, this would be a good mechanic for Zombipocalypse.
Then a much better system designer than I, Clash Bowley over at Flying Mice Games, laid the smack down on me. He outlined how he does Traits and Edges. Yeah, he credited another designer but I usually am referencing Clash on design points so he gets the credit. Anyway, I started noodling on how to split schticks up.
I ended up with Edges being extensions of skills. You will have a required skill and rank, so, to be a Crack Shot you must have a Ranged Combat rank of 4 or higher. Also, Edges are powered by Action Points which are a derived stat from Spirit + Mind and give a range of 2-20. So, Edges are a resource management mechanism for extraordinary skill actions. Have Athletics (Running) and want to run up that wall like Jackie Chan? Have the Monkey Run Edge and spend an Action Point and there you go.
Traits are always on, definitional abilities. So, you might have a “Loved One” Trait that gives you any Skill you need to save your loved one. For instance, you have a shot gun and your daughter is being attacked by the Infected, you suddenly can fire that shot gun. After the fight, you have no idea how you just did that but hey, it worked. Traits also come with a Detriment. This is chosen from a list linked to the Trait. So, for loved ones it would be:
- Loved one is handicapped
- Loved one is younger than 12 years old
- Loved one hates you or does not return your love
There may end up being more but then you would pick one. This allows the linking of the Detriment to the Trait and it can make a bit more sense. It should be noted that the player can choose not to take any Traits or Edges.
So, I think that is the way I will be heading for Edges and Traits in Zombipocalypse.
I had an idea, as I usually do, in the shower about a web based tool for the creation of custom character sheets…and the ability to then fill them out AND store them online. This would not be for any system in particular, it would be for any system. You could do DND, Palladium, Iridium or any system you wanted.
Then, as a social networking aspect, make your custom sheet sharable. So, you make a DND sheet, you can share it.
Then, we make a web service and allow other sites to subscribe to the service. For small publishers, this would give them a means to offer their customers an online resource for saving characters.
Oh, did I mention that it would be rendered as a PDF…yeah, I like this.
I could do it in Java, run it on tomcat, use the Apache SOAP package…its almost too easy.
As I was writing up the outline for locations of note, I came to a place I wanted to have some spotty civilization going on, Utah. Yeah, the first thing that hit me was Mormons. I want to have the Mormon Free State centered near but not at Salt Lake City. The problem I am having is I also want to make it a theocracy.
Danger Will Robinson! Danger!
See, I have not shied from such issues int he past and have gotten my share of hate mail. Shades of Earth was the first of it. The Catholics hated it. The Neo-Nazis hated it (yeah, lots of “Why did you make the Nazis bad guys?”). I even had some African-Americans folks up in arms. The problem was, that in the 1930′s, blacks were not well treated. I know that may come as a surprise to some but when I portrayed the historical facts of the Harlem Renaissance and the treatment that black characters may receive, it offended some. Generally though, they were reasonable and when given a chance to explain they understood. Not so with the neo-nazis. They would go on and on about how the Holocaust was a hoax and how I exaggerated the number of deaths and how those deaths did not happen and if they did it was not that bad…yeah, you got it. Eventually, I just had to black list these folks off my mail server.
So now, once again, I face the possibility of offending someone with setting information. Sure it would be easy enough to just not include it or make it more a Mad Max post apoc type place but it really feels right. There will be benefits as well as minuses. There will actually be a fairly high level of religious tolerance but there will also be little tolerance for homosexuality. As I delve deeper into my research we will see what else comes up but I see this as potentially one of the biggest issues with this book.
As an aside, to be clear, I have never used any of my settings as a springboard for my views, political, religious or otherwise. I will do my honest best to portray the Mormons as I believe the circumstances would affect them. However, I fear that my zombies will not be politically correct.