Friday, April 29, 2011

Rules Document

I am nearly ready to post the proofed version of the basic rules. I will likely post them here on Sunday evening. I realized that I haven't posted for a while and its my goal to post at least once a week. I'll have to review the size of the document to see if I should include it as a simple post or make it a Google document that can be downloaded from the blog. I'm not particularly tech savvy so I'll do my best.  

I have been preparing my first play test which I hope to have underway by July. I am planning to do my first play test with a group of friends. I realize ideally play testing would be done by people who don't know me and that is definitely in the works. I have two groups who are going to start play testing this game in January of 2012. I will not be directly involved in either of these groups. My goal with play testing myself is to iron out any large problems before I send out the rules to others, I'd like to catch as many big or obvious problems so the other play test groups can focus more on fine details.

I have a number of friends who are very experienced in game design and development. Living in Seattle where a large number of games are produced and belonging to the table top gaming community, which is rather small, its unavoidable. Our community is small here and that has enabled me to bend the ear of one or two professionals. I certainly hope I haven't made a pest of myself, however they have been kind enough to humor me and offer support and guidance. An opportunity I greatly appreciate. 

I actually think I've procrastinated the play test part due to a couple of reasons. I'm nervous and don't have much in the way of confidence around my writing skills, thank god for editors... I know this game won't be everyones cup of tea, and that's okay, I just don't want my friends to feel obligated to like it because I wrote it, so there is a little fear for me in this regard. I just have to remember that I like what I have and I feel good about the setting. I also know that it has some problems but I'm starting to feel more confident these problems can be worked out through play testing.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Evolution of Vision

I find that in the beginning of undertaking this project it was my intention to keep the mechanical system as simple and uncomplicated as possible. This has been difficult, while I think I've maintained simplicity in the core rules, I find the intricacies of social warfare difficult to keep simple. So it would appear that the mechanical crunch of the game is a bit more involved than I originally planned. I have mixed feelings about this. If they feel too complicated, which is completely subjective, it makes the primary focus of the game too complicated and difficult to keep up with.

One of my favorite games, Ars Magica, has a beautiful but elaborate rules system. After I mastered the system with a group of players I found it satisfying and fulfilling as a system. It provided me with a satisfaction and range of choice / variables that I loved. It required a rather large up front investment of time and effort to master these rules. For me the pay off was worth it. Years later when I along with a fellow Ars Magica lover attempted to start a new group it lasted only a handful of sessions before several of the newer players lost interest. I suspect the initial investment of mastering the intricate rules of the game was more than these particular players were willing or interested in investing. I can understand that because elaborate combat systems do not interest me. Ars Magica's rules were centered on the use of magic which I do find interesting.

Rule simplicity = Restriction in choice = possible player alienation
Rule complexity = Increased options = possible player alienation
Where is the happy medium? Is there one?

After contemplating this for a while I began trying to think about where that territory of being crunchy enough to provide diversity to the game might be without straying into the overly complicated realm. The more I though about this the more I realized perhaps this is a fruitless issue. Complexity of rules systems is too terribly subjective to reliably quantify. As a result I've decided that in developing my rule system around the Social Warfare aspect of the game there will be a degree of complexity. This may be too much for some, just enough for some others. My goal at this point is to establish the rules and refine them through revision and play testing. I would like to simplify them as much as possible, but I don't want to loose too much by simplifying. Balance is difficult to achieve or perhaps its an illusion...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Themes and more Vision

Themes and Story Elements: Beauty, Seduction, Corruption, Insanity, Moral Dilemma, Empire Building, Manipulation, Intrigue, Skullduggery, Betrayal, Culture, Sophistication, Fear, Personal Horror, Enemies, Rivalries, Alliances, Exploration, Mystery, Occult, Subterfuge, Socio-Economic Conflict, Power Struggles, Tragedy, Revenge, Wit, Strategy, Social Climbing and Sensuality.

More Vision….
I wish to explore and expand upon other ways to create conflict in gaming. Since combat seems to be the primary source of conflict in many games out there I look forward to exploring different things. I naturally plan to place a great deal of emphasis on the Social warfare, but I would also like to explore economic warfare the ability to ruin ones enemies, spiritual warfare the struggle to hold onto ones soul, intellectual warfare the debate and rivalry of academic or artistic accomplishments. I guess I’m hoping for a more cerebral experience to gaming rather than the gratification of slaying every enemy I see with my sword. I want to approach conflict differently and hopefully make it just as interesting and dynamic as the conflict we get sometimes from a fight scene. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

In the beginning

It all started December of 2008. Seattle was shut down by an abnormally harsh snowstorm for about a week and a half, an event we here affectionately refer to as snowpocalypse. Everything shut down and I was sitting home experiencing a case of cabin fever. So what do you do when you have all the time in the world and you’ve exhausted your bookcases, movie collection and the Internet? Write a roleplaying game of course! Naturally I didn’t write the whole thing in that week and a half, but it was a start.

I had the idea for a long time. A game of social warfare… Not being a particularly big fan of dice grinding and dungeon delving, ground I covered and exhausted long ago, I knew I was interested in something different. There are games that do social warfare well, such as Vampire: The Masquerade being the main one that comes to mind. I played that a lot as well and have longed for something different.

Now it’s April of 2011, and I’ve been working on this project consistently for nearly two-and-a-half years. All this time I’ve been working on this project I didn’t realize the behemoth it’s become. I printed out a copy of my work and (single sided) it’s about 800 pages long. Perhaps I’m out of control, either way I am lucky enough to have a good friend who’s worked in the gaming industry who is an excellent content editor. I plan to pay her well to help me with this and buy her a really nice dinner for saying yes to my request for help.

What is my definition of a game of Social Warfare?

Simply put it’s a game that places the emphasis on social dynamics and conflict with rule mechanics that support social scheming, social climbing and high drama.

Vision, or at least part of it…

I feel that so many games have beautiful and elaborate systems centered on combat. There are so many in fact that there seem to be dozens of systems and mechanics to appeal to every type of gamer from the realist to those disposed to the more narrative style. I have encountered several games that have given a nod to social gaming, but even these, in my experience, seem to be simply giving us a morsel, the focus was on something else, usually combat. Now please before you read any further I want to make it clear I have nothing against combat and my vision (which I’ll get to shortly) does not in any way exclude combat in my game, in fact I hope that it’s as dynamic as the social warfare aspects. It’s been my experience that most social elements of a game are limited to the whims of gifted storytellers who are frequently flying by the seat of their pants. It’s my hope to develop a system that supports social elements of a game and the intricacies of intrigue and skullduggery with comprehensive rules that are not overly complicated but functional.

The Frame Work of My Setting

My setting is a fantasy world in an era very similar to our own Renaissance period. It is a world populated by humans, there are no elves, dwarves or similar denizens of what I would consider high fantasy settings. My world I would consider low fantasy, meaning I see it as being similar to our own world during the renaissance with more fantastic elements such as magic, being subtle and rarely seen, though they do exist. The game takes place in the capital of an empire in decline where four estates, Those who Rule (nobility and landed gentry), Those who Pray (cults and spiritual leaders), Those who Toil (the common folk and tradesmen) and Those who Reveal (scholars and artists) are engaged in a struggle to either keep or gain power. As an age of enlightenment begins the boundaries that have separated these estates begins to crumble so too does the stability they once provided. This is of course where the social warfare piece comes into play.

The Meta Plot
 “There were once many gods and they created all things. The gods created the stars, the moons, the mountains and seas, even the blades of grass at your feet. The gods created all manner of creature, animals, insects, humans and even demons. Once all life existed together in this world and the gods walked among us.”

“We, humanity, were the gods favorites and they blessed humanity with souls that continue to exist even when our mortal coils rot in the earth. Demons became jealous of our divine gifts and they protested the gods who were unmoved by their pleas. Their jealousy turned to madness and the demon’s attacked the gods. The peaceful paradise was broken as the gods waged war against their ungrateful creations. Humanity found itself at the center of this war and sided with the gods, save for a traitorous few. Even the gods had their traitors who sided with demonkind as fallen gods.”

-Zadorra Grand Theologian of the Cult of Alloria

War of Souls
Thousands of years ago the gods defeated demons and condemned them to damnation imprisoning them behind the Celestial Seal. This expended the Gods strength and they retreated promising mankind they would return as long as they continue to exalt them. This is the primary dogma of most cults when attempting to inspire their followers. Despite the sacrifice the gods made for mankind there was a flaw they couldn’t foresee, mankind had the power to summon demons through the seal. In the absence of the gods and through the power of their mortal thralls, demons can temporarily leave their prison and continue their war against humanity in an attempt to steal their souls. Demons spread corruption like the plague and mortals who fall victim to their manipulations might find their soul claimed by a demon condemning them to damnation.