Bickering

I’m off work today, hurrah, and work continues on Monkey. I’m going to focus on it exclusively for the next couple of weeks to get it done. Here’s a quick fun rule, that sits outside the main skill resolution mechanic.

Bickering Contests.
Bickering is a special type of action.

The during the Journey to the West, Monkey, Sandy and Pigsy continuously bicker with one another. They endlessly argue about who should carry the master’s baggage, which way to go next, the best way to deal with the demon that blocks their way….

Because bickering is such as major part of the novel, here is a quick game mechanic that players may use to resolve such arguments between the player immortals in a way that brings a clear in game advantage for the winner.

1. Each player involved in the bickering draw a card from their fortune deck.
2. The player with the highest card wins the exchange.
3. Play out three such exchanges.

The player who has won the most exchanges, wins the argument. The other immortals, even if they don’t agree with the winner must go along with the winner. The winner bolstered with success gains an extra card on his next action draw.
If the result of the three exchanges is a draw there is no winner, the Narrator quickly moves the action along to the next scene.

Note: Players may not transfer cards into or out of their fortune hands during a Bickering Contest.

The importance of games design

This came out from email discussions with

about the need to stop and think about design. I thought it be nice to post it here, since it gives a nice history of how I worked on Monkey.

I wrote a first draft of the game (version 1), which was based upon D6s. Went to playtest it with my mate Ginger Matt and immeadilty he exposed the central rule mechanic as the nonsense it was right at the start of the game – so we didn’t even start it was so broken. (but damn it looked sexy on paper).

Re wrote it (version 2),which saw dice replaced with cards, and despite more abortive playtesting,which turned into more discussions about the concepts and mechanics, found there was still problems. People agreed there was a germ of a good game but just didn’t get how it all comes together.

Then and only then just when I was about to jack it in did I take a step back and think about DESIGN. Immediately I stopped working on the writing and stripped back the game to the bare essentials. After a bit of thought and discussions the yin-yang card mechanic came about, which I think really is the ‘sexy’ part of the game rules that fits in with the Chinese setting to a tee. This eventually lead to version 3. This actually got my playtesters interested, were as before I only got silence (since the game as as presented was a confusing mismash of ideas. From this I wrote version 3.6 which was an attempt to get the game in its entirity, if only quick notes and headings for some chapters. Overall theres been been 3 versions of the game with about 4-6 rewrites of each.

About six months ago I started working on my Final draft which is the what I’ve been getting everyone excited about ,because it finally is a game , Not just an essay about an potential game.

I’ve learnt the hard way that having a clear design of your game is vital. Not only does it speed up the writing process, because you are less tempted to just launch into a rambling train of thought that then requires multiple revisions to sort out, by having chapters and concepts before you to work in a modular manner, but it also helps during playtest. My early ‘playtests’ broke down quickly because not only did I not have vital concepts and rules properly explained in the playtest rules, but I didn’t even have a clear idea of whats going on. My last playtest was a roaring success not only because the rules are in better shape, but the design and what the rules intend to do is clearer in my head.

You’ld think as a software developer all this would be obvious 😉

Mind Maps

After chatting (or was that ranting*) with over email this afternoon about Games Design I was reminded of a little toy I was playing with the other day that I wish I had when I designed Monkey.

MIND MAPS, if you don’t know what one is pop over to wikiapedia here where they do a much better job of explaining than me. Inspired by the idea that they are useful for creating lists of contents for book I worked up a quick example for Monkey.

Monkey Mind Map

(scroll down to see it as a list of contents)

I used Free Mind which is a free open source mind mapping piece of software, available in both windoz and linux flavours.

[*I should really take out my Game Designing frustration on some forum…..]

Monkey update

“Finished by the end of May”…what a horrible horrible liar I am!! As it turned out my writing time has been squeezed to a trickle. I sat down to work on the Character gen chapter last night, started writing about Magical Staffs in Ancient China and wee small child awoke!! This is fairly typical of late, so I am doubly glad I’ve cut down on what I’ve decided to release by Oct.

None of which ramblings tells you my loyal readers where I’m upto.

Introduction – done
Character Generation Chapter – Done.
Action Chapter -90% done – just need to do the non-combat dramatic contest example
Developing the Story (character advancement/using virtue and fortune points to drive the story) – 50% needs pulling together plus intro story.

GMs section.
Setting chapter – need to start
Adventure – The Bag of Wind – outline + one npc

So in short nearly there with the players section, which I feel is the really important bit for the ‘coaster edition’ and still on the starting blocks as far as the GM’s materials are concerned (but not to worried about that).

So be happliy surprised to get the first draft of the coaster edition by end of this month, more realistically by end of July.

Monkey progress

Despite having to take time were I can, due to birth of first child two weeks ago (which is chronicled in my personal blog

  ), I’ve managed a fair bit towards the Coaster edition of Monkey.

Admiting that a releasing a full version of the game (egged on by folks over at the Collective Endeavour) by Furnace in October was folly was the best thing I could do at this point. It takes the pressure off and has cleared my mind, in a way that is most productive.

I’ve cleaned up the current rules set considerably with ideas from the playtest. Character Gen is now nearly sorted, with one last session of writing to clean up loose ends. The Action chapter is next, with clean up on how the Fortune mechanic works within the main conflict rules, and an example of a non-combat dramatic contest. Then finally a quick setting chapter (no more than 3 pages; This is going to be the meat of the final version amoungst other things) and write up the demo adventure. So I reckon I’m around 50% of the way there.

So this means that dependent on how much writing time I get when I go back to work (I’ve just had two weeks paternity leave) I hope to have the first draft of the Coaster Edition done by the end of this month!

Games for Furnace

Well the cat is out of the bag and I’ve thrown my hat into the ring about what games I’m going to run at this years Furnace. Two of the games, Bullet Cop and Blood & Sand, I’ve not mentioned before and I’ll post about them individually later to expand upon the quick explaination I’ve given in these player pitches.

D101 Games presents…

Monkey: A storytelling game of the Journey to the West

“The Bag of Wind” by Newt Newport for six players

The Jade Emperor wants you to escort one of the Queen Mother’s handmaidens to a party on Ki Yin’s Western Island.

The only problem is that some one has stolen the Fung Po The Windlord’s magic Bag of Wind, while Demons run amok and heavy rains flood the lands of the Tang Emperor.

As disgraced immortals of the Western Heaven you see more than a few opportunities to make up for your previous crimes and return home.

Monkey is a new storytelling game based upon the Chinese classic The Journey to the West. A blend of action and humour, Monkey uses a card based mechanic that models the mythological world the novel is set in, with its mix of Immortals, Buddhism, Taoism and martial arts.

The full version of the game will be released in Summer 2008, but fully playable version of game will be available at the Convention.

Blood and Sand: Enter the Arena

A Sword and Sandals game for Six Players By Newt Newport

Far above the floor of the theatre of death amidst the baying crowd sits the Tyrant of the city. Since the day that you gained your freedom, you have sought the power that the Tyrant wields by controlling the whole city through a web of priests, guildmasters, sorcerers, warriors and demons. Either through the gangs that control the streets, the merchants that control the bread that feeds the masses, or the mercenaries that fight the city’s wars, you have sought to usurp the Tyrants Power, by stealing a piece at a time. But it is here on the day of games to celebrate the Tyrant’s rule that the biggest gains are to be made. Whole blocks of the population can be swayed your way if the team of charioteers that you sponsor wins. Important officials can be bought by the winnings they make off your Gladiators. Perhaps even the Tyrant, will feel threatened enough by the power that you amass to let down his guard.

As the philosopher Thanopoclus says

“Here in the Arena, amongst the Blood and Sand, lies the beating heart of the power that fuels the very being of the city.”

Blood and Sand is a new swords and sandals game, influenced by the Ancient period, old style Runequest and Robert E Howard’s Conan stories. A game where the player characters fight their way out slavery to power in a world dominated by massive City states ruled by evil Tyrants. It uses a modified and extended version of the rules published in the SRD of the the new Mongoose Runequest released under OGL. Currently in development it is due to be published in 2008.

Bullet Cop : Against the Mob

A storytelling game of 70s hardboiled cop action for four players by Newt Newport

The mafia dominates the whole of the West side of Kill City. Two thirds of all the city’s business goes through the coffers of the Family. Their enforcers walk the streets openly, eliminating any one who opposes the Don’s will. The police , the Judges and the Press are on their payroll. They own city hall.

Except you. You’ve decided to get clean of all the corruption that riddles the city and make a stand.

You and your gun, against the Mob.

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.