Monkey, the Coaster Edition

The more I mull over the playtest in my mind, realising it was very protective in many regards and that there’s elements that need further development, the more I question getting it done by October. Add to this that I’ve yet to commission artwork, finish off the Narrator/background chapters and last not least have just become a father for the first time (I type this as the little tyke sleeps). I’m also in the process of reading Antony Yu’s four volume translation (‘Journey to the West vol 1-4, Antony Yu, published by University of Chicago), which adds a ton of detail compared with the Arthur Waley abridged version (Monkey, translated by Arthur Waley, published by Penguin). Not mention watching all 52 episodes of the Monkey TV series that was shown on BBC2 during the 80s !

So instead I plan to clean up the rules I’ve written so far, add the adventure I ran the other day with a minimal background section (important Immortals from the book and quick background to the Tang Empire and various Immortal locations), and put it all together as a PDF version – which I’m going to hand out on as a Free CD at Furnace as the ‘Coaster’ edition (because if you don’t like it you can always use it as a coaster for your Beer/Tea). I’ll also probably put it up on the D101games website (another thing I need to put together). This means I will get a playable version out for my original deadline without releasing a rushed sub par version.

I also think that this will get it to a wider audience who will then be able to comment and play test the game. Monkey in the far east has the same impact as Robin Hood, and from people’s enthusiasm that I’ve talked about the game over here its seeped into their imagination in the same way. I started this off as a self satisfactory exercise, and the playtest in many ways satisfied that urge. It will be interesting to see what other people think and how it develops from there.

I plan to have the ‘coaster’ edition done by October. Anyone who is interested on seeing the work in progress and help shaping it please contact me at mrnewt AT gmail DOT com.

Regards

;O)Newt

Monkey playtest!

Well it had to happen sooner or later and despite much procrastination on my part I finally got to run a playtest of my Monkey the Storytelling Game (which I’m more or less certain is going to be the final title) yesterday for my regular Sunday group.

The two players, Rob and Mr C play in my regular HeroQuest game, which they are having a whale of a time in, and are also quite into D&D. Monkey has some similiarities to HQ, in many ways it is a simplifed HQ lite, so they picked up the system quickly. They also have a reasonable interest in the orient, which meant they absorbed the background of the game pretty quickly.

Character generation went very smoothly, taking about an hour and a half. This was mainly chat about the setting and concepts, rather than explaining parts they had got stuck on. Both players quickly formed concepts, a demon hunter and a cunning fox spirit, after I explained the possible back ground to the player immortals (each player runs an immortal who is out of favour with the heavenly authorities and trying to redeem themselves). In fact they pretty much worked through the character generation chapter without much input from me. Which means that I must be doing something right on the writing front!

I won’t go into detail about the plot of the adventure, since I’m going to use it as my introductory adventure, but the game mechanics went smoothly and much to my amazement actually worked!!! The card drawing mecanic that the game uses worked straight out of the box and we got to play the game that I envisioned almost ten years ago when I first read the book and thought, hey there’s a rpg in this. To say I’m chuffed about this is an understatement 🙂

Sure there’s some polishing and clafication needed. The Fortune system, were players get to hold extra cards in fortune hand which they can subsitue for lower cards in their Action Hand (which is used to resolve actions), needs balancing. How the immortal’s Weakness works in game needs clafiying and a system for ‘bickering’ amoungst the player immortals, a main feature of the book, needs implementing. Also I need more examples for the magic section. Rob and Mr C were happy making up their powers, but I still think players less familiar with the setting and more used to having clear examples and rules would get confused.

This playtest game in many ways has been a milestone. For years I have been timidly working on it, not sure if it would work let alone match up to my lofty expectations. Yesterdays game exceeded my expectations and gives me the shoove I need to get it finished for its October release!!

My next milestone, after cleaning up and adding the bits that came out of this playtest, is to circlate the rules to other groups for playtesting since its highly likely that my playtest was very ‘protective’ (which is a software development term for a test conducted by the developer where only the posistives of the system are considered and the negatives are overlooked).

If you are interested in the game, here’s a quick five page introduction

Monkey Preview – Pdf

Life or Death, the secret project revealed

Well easter has come and gone. A combination of chilling out and being roped into decorating the Nursery  has meant that working on the Secret Project, which is my priority at the mo, came first. So no complete version of Monkey, yet 🙁

I did enough work on the ‘Secret Project’ so that over 70% of the writing is done. I’ve missed the deadline that Rachel my wife set me  but I’ve passed the tipping point where I’m happy it is going to get released. Therefore I can now let you in what it is.

Life and Death

A scenario/sourcebook for up to six starting characters using the RuneQuest Main Rulebook

“One day this city will have to choose between Life and Death”
The Prophet before being taken to his execution, one hundred years ago in the city state of Miraz.

Miraz the Golden is sees itself inheritor of the old Lion Empire. It is an oppressive military police state which seeks to dominate its neighbours. Some say the wrath of the gods has been brought down because of its hubris and it is currently stricken by a plague. Its Tyrant looks on from his remote palace as the victims of the plague shuffle round the streets as newly risen zombies. While his heirs fight amongst themselves to see who will succeed their father, when he is toppled by the rebellion that is fermenting in the streets.

Into this madness step the beginning adventurers out to make a fortune and a name for themselves.

This scenario/sourcebook features an open and non-linear adventure and information about the city state of Miraz and its surrounding lands.

Highlights

The Shattered Lands. A generic fantasy setting, which is broad in depth of information, allowing it to be expanded or discarded in favour of the GM’s own setting. An example setting which is wide enough to support the variety of play that the RuneQuest rules encourage.

The Five Cities. Thumb nail sketches of the five city states which make up the starting player character’s homes. Enough flavour and information to create working adventurers while rounding them out with motivations and prejudices to drive role-playing.

The City State of Miraz .History, culture, people and events and locations that go towards making a dynamic city based adventure. Miraz is on the verge of a regime change and rules and guidance are provided to help the Games Master and players determine how the revolution plays out.

The Iron Mines. The slaves are in revolt, but politics and secrets guide the eventual outcome. The use of influence and negotiation drives many events in RuneQuest, and this section give suggestions on how to handle the resolution of such actions satisfactorily.

The Forbidden Zone. A deadly wilderness to the south of the city shunned by even the Iron Legions of Miraz. Encounters and advice on how to use foraging, navigation and the weather as challenges to give a sense of discomfort while out and about in the great out doors.

Bone Hill. The final resting place of the Lion Emperors of ages past. A living dungeon with its own inhabitants and ecology, that should challenge even the most experienced dungeoneers.

Gamesmaster’s advice. As well as rules suggestions and guidance through out the adventure, there are dedicated chapters on how to run this sort of adventure. Where the actions of the players drive the action not some preordained plot along which the GM rail roads the players. Finally there is a chapter on how to bring the adventure to a satisfactory conclusion no mater how widely the players have strayed from what the GM expected.

Monsters! Each section of the adventure features monsters and non-player character that have their own goals and motivations. This makes them similar in out look to the player characters, and sometimes just as deadly! Meet the Tyrant of Miraz, and his elite Death Watch guard. Battle with Plague Zombies and argue with the undead Emperors.

Six Pregenerated Player Characters to get you started or to use as NPC opposition.

The above when it is edited will probably be the back cover blurb, of a book that is begining to look like it is going to be around 60 pages long.  Its expanded considerably from something that I had originally intended only to be around 30 max. However I’ve enjoyed writing it so much that its been easy to get carried away. Plus I don’t want to realease something that is rubbish.

I’ve got a new deadline of the 1st of May, since thats when I’m playtesting it with my regular group. I’ll also pass out the manuscript to playtesters/peer review around then, so if you are interested in doing either shout out now.

I’m also thinking of commissioning art now, definitely the main cover and a few interior pieces, now that its expanded in scope. So time to set an art budget .  Campaign Cartographer 3 will be fired up for map work in the coming weeks. Oh yes and a website of some sort will have to be put together….

On the technical side its being released under the RuneQuest Logo Open Gaming License, which basically means its a supplement for use with the RuneQuest Main Rule Book.

,

 and Loz Whitaker have very kindly given me some advice on how to go about using the OGL.

While I’m a bit frustrated at the amount of time I’ve got to work on this due to personal circumstances, its the most fun I’ve had in years writing this and putting it all together.

Art for the Secret Project

I’m currently working on a Secret Project. Its a very simple thing that I need to get done by the end of the month.

This is partially an exercise to prove to my wife that I can self-publish my writing. I foolishly explained about my free pdf downloadable adventures over at molad.org and she asked me If I could charge for them and I said yes. So she said get it done by the end of this month an she would believe it when she saw it.

Currently I have a zero pounds in the D101 games treasury, so I’m doing it all myself. Its going to be a pdf of around 30 pages that I’ll be putting on RPGnow for around $3-5. So as you can expect the art budget is very low, to zero. I could ask one of my uber-talented artist friends to do it at low cost, but I would still only be able to afford a cover and a couple of pieces. One of the principles I aim to stick to religously with this is that I always pay my artists on delivery of the art, so being cheeky and saying ‘oh I’ll pay you later when I get paid out of the profits’ isn’t an option. Also my deadline is uber tight. Two weeks kids! eeck!

With this in mind I was pleasantly surprised to find clipart.com which for a small subscription gives you access to the royalty free art.  So I spent a couple of hours trawling through finding bits of art that would fit in with the book. Its not going to be anywhere as good as if I got an artist with passion, but its good enough to be evocative and give me some experience of putting the text and art together using a Desk Top Publishing package. 

And it means that I’ll get it done before the wife’s deadline.

I was so tickled that I put together a mock up for the front cover and an LJ icon.

Monkey chapter list

Here’s the contents for Monkey as it stands. Titles in italics are my take on the Monkey story, short excepts to set the scene and introduce the story to people who haven’t read the epic.

Players’ Section

  1. Introduction : Birth of monkey
  2. Character Generation: Monkey and Patriarch Subkobi
  3. Action rules: Monkey and the Demon of Havoc.
  4. Developing the story, Virtue & Fortune rewards. Player advice

Narrators’ Section: Monkey rebels against Western Heaven, and is imprisoned by Buddha.

  1. How to run the game: Tipitka frees Monkey and the quest begins.
  2. The Worlds of Monkey: Immortals & Locations
  3. Adventure: The bag of wind. (Linear adventure).
  4. Adventure: A Year in the City (Freeform adventure).

Appendixes

  1. Bibliography/Resources
  2. Chinese Animal traits.
  3. Character & Reference sheets

From a quick scan anything that I’m missing?

d101games lives!!!!!

After over a year of things being on hold, I picked up on D101 games as a living entity a couple of months ago.

The turning point was Furnace 2006, a nice cosy RPG convention that I help to run. Giddy off the success of that event everyone started thinking about what they were going to run in 2007. Empowered with confidence, since I managed to easily achieve my goal of getting everyone who came who wanted to play in a game with no one sat around bored, I thought ‘what would I do at Furnace 2007 if I could do anything?’

Launch Monkey and have copies for it on sale 🙂

So thats what I’m working towards. Not exclusively since I have a short Secret RPG project on the go mainly as an ideas tester (as well as to prove to the wife that I can publish something and I’m not all talk) which I’m going to reveal in the next couple of weeks. However I am more focused on it, since I’ve stopped writing for HeroQuest (which was a fun ‘apprenticeship’ but at the end of the day why should I write for someone elses benefit?).

Current status on Monkey is that I have a very rough play test draft which I’m turning into a robust manuscript. I’ve also gone away and done a shed load of research since there simply isn’t enough detail about the  gods and goddesses that feature in the book. Got a good grasp of Chinese magic and mythology, and how I want to present it in the game. I expect the first complete draft to be done by easter.

Progress

Well a second draft of the character generation and system rules has gone to the playtesters for comment. They are suspiously quiet so I’ll have to send Monkey down from heaven to qive them a poke with his staff!

I’m going to get a group together to run a game, with the aim of meeting up and playing once a month. Perhaps even catch a Wuxia or episode of Monkey before we start? If you are up for this give me a shout.

Next stage is to do a guide to Immortals and Places in the book. Both are helped by a recent purchase of Mythology of the Far East by Rachel Storm, a easy to read enclopedia of Chinese, Korean and Japanese Mythology. Not only does it cover the Gods and Goddess I need from the book, as well as a host of characters who would fit in, it does it in a clear and consise style, which is a joy to read and gives me something to aim at when I am doing the write up with stats.

Also re reading the epic,via David Kherdian’s translation which is much easier to read and more focused on the spritual elements than Arthur Waleys’ translation (which is the most popular- see the Penguin version) Very nice to get a different take of the book. Very consise though. Going to get hold of the 4 volume University of Chicago version next 🙂

People still love monkey!

From a comment from the ever lovable

“Fucking hell! Monkey! Long time no see.

How’s Piggy and that disturbingly attractive monk “boy” you used to hang around with? Do you see them much.

I know since the series finished and pantomime dried up you’ve turned to drink and become a pizza delivery driver. But I bet nobody gets pizza fresher than pizza delivered by hyper-fast cloud.

So chin up lad, we’re all behind you!”

In more serious news, nearly got the first playtest draft finished. Just got to give the Action chapter a quick once over, write some design notes and I’ll be putting up in an the Freinds of D101 games group I’m setting up. ETA either today or tommorrow latest.

Still irrepresible!!

Recently I’ve been pleasantly distracted by some writing work for Issaries Inc’s HeroQuest and setting up the Masters of Luck and Death demo team, not to mention a completely bonkers Real Life Tm!(see for details)

However work on Monkey has been quitely going on in the back ground when I’ve had the chance. I’m now at the stage where I’ll have a playtest draft of the rules done by this weekend. I’ll then be setting up a local group to test the mechanics, and possibly an play by post/or email if I have time.

Apart from playtesting the rules my next big job is to do lots of background reading on Chinese Mythology. This is because I realised that the book doesn’t really tell you much about the Gods and Goddess’s Monkey meets in his journey. When it came to start writing up the deities for the Immortals chapter of the game I realised that the detail I know about some of the immortals (Lao Tzu, Ki Yin) comes from other books I have read. The same goes for the mythological locations mentioned in the book.

Last thing to report is that this journal is now completely public. There is also a private Friends of D101 games mailing list for people who want to become actively involved in the development of the game. Please leave a comment below if you are interested in joining this.