Wednesday, 20 November 2013

It's time to play

After a flurry of posts in the first few days, a brief post in week two, it is now time to complete the final phase of Nagademon 2013. Play it.

That's right, tomorrow night I'm taking this little game to my regular gaming group to see how well it works with them. As usual I have a few things that I'm looking for from the game. Most of all I want to make sure that it's a fun or engaging game. The idea seemed to make sense to me but I really want it to be fun for other people who don't live inside my head. All those homunculi enjoyed it, but they're not real. Apparently.

I'll let you know what happens.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Solo Playtesting Tells the Obvious Secrets

I ran through my rules again today to make a documented play test, a solo test if you will. I made characters, wrote tribal values, rolled dice, collated results, narrated results of rules. The end result? A shaky game. A wobbly, uncertain game. A lumbering journey through a short story.

But it's a story and it's a game. There's a story game in there, lurking beneath the surface of those bullet points and ideas. That's the first, and the biggest, obvious secret I learned tonight.

Buried deep in the die rolls, however, were several other secrets. Who gets that +1 you mentioned? Does that failed roll really exile the character from the tribe, and from the game? What kinds of things make for a worthy raider?

All of them are the obvious errors and omissions from my notes. They're the big, easy corrections. They're the kinds of things that really need to be cleaned up well before any encounter with actual players. I was tempted to fix them on the fly, but I committed myself to playing the rules as written. That's an important part of play testing. Play what's written, not what you think would fix the problem that you think you've found.

And now, to fix the obvious problems I just found.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The reason why they fight

I mentioned that my Nagademon 2013 game had a problem in the area of audience empathy. I think I may have solved it. Important to the setting (and therefore the story) is the value that the character's identity is found in the tribe. I hadn't really integrated this as fully as I could into the game but I had expected the players to drive their characters along that path. After a day or two of thinking about it consciously and subconsciously, I found my answer.

In the first iteration of the game I created a phase for the players to define the values of the tribe, and later had a phase in which the players had to play out their attempts to resolved personal tensions between the characters. Although this sounded like a good idea at the time, it didn't really connect the characters into the importance of the tribe itself and as a result didn't support what the game is about. This game is about characters who are willing to kill and die for the sake of the tribe. If I insisted on a phase in the game that concentrated on the interpersonal relationships, I think it would have been a distraction. Instead of that, the phase has been replaced by the opportunity for characters to embody the values of the tribe.

And now I'm going to give a little context for all of that. I hope it'll make more sense this way.

There are several phases of play.
   1. Read the tribal values, establish the setting.
   2. Create characters (includes identifying which values your character has broken)
   3. Make restitution to the tribe.
   4. The tribe is raided; with many men killed, and their children stolen.
   5. The characters prove their worth to join the raiding party.
   6. The tribe sets out to rescue their children.

The problem phase was #3, but I think I've fixed it now. Only another round of dummy testing will tell me if I've avoided the problem I found earlier. If only it all survives an actual play test.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Dummy testing success!

I ran some dummy tests last night for my Nagademon 2013 game. The good news is that it was very successful. I found something wrong with what I had.

It's an issue of what makes a good story. I like to think there are three key elements to a story for any protagonist.
   1. What does the character want?
   2. What's stopping the character?
   3. Why should the audience care?

The first two are standard fare for most story games. The last one is about getting player involvement in the game. Players have an emotional connection to their characters and need to share the motivation so that they make the character do something. I've been at game tables with players who've been confronted with The Big Bad Threat and responded with, "Why should I do anything about that? I'm going to find a monster, kill it, and take its stuff."

In my game the first two are clear: get the kids back from the cannibals, but your place in the raiding party is not assured. The third one is where I found the problem. Mechanically it's fine, but emotionally it's not strong enough. There's a good set of obstacles in that part of the game, but I want them to have a stronger connection with the rest of the game.

I consider the dummy testing successful because it found this problem. Now to fix it!

Sunday, 3 November 2013

First Blood of the Nagademon

The outline is done. What I have now is a playable game, but only if I'm running it. I had Siege in this format for several plays before I started putting text around it. The rules of Nagademon don't allow this kind of luxury, however, so I need to get the next couple of rounds of play testing completely.

My next immediate steps involve running some dummy tests by myself to see if it works as imagined. After that I need a group of players to try it out. As it happens I know a couple of people who are keen to play, but who have never played a story game before. This seems like an interesting opportunity to see how well it works off the shelf without any gaming presuppositions.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Roll initiative against Nagademon

The battle with the Nagademon has returned for 2013. This year I've started the month with a solid idea and have started the first hack at it. Already I can see influences from Burning Wheel, FU, Fiasco, and Siege. I'm stealing with pride.

Right now, the game itself is a one-shot game in which the players play members of a tribe that suffers a raid from cannibals who steal their children. The characters must earn their place in the raiding party that will go to rescue the children.

I'll keep the title to myself for now because I'm not yet convinced by it. Watch this space for more!