Wednesday, 24 August 2016

World Building Game Update

A kind of Post-mortem / Resurrection thread of what happened with version II, How it maybe worked, how it didn't and how I can improve on it for the future.. oh and what we're doing with it.

Years Later, the Adventurers discovered a plaque that spells out the demise of the Ancient Civs: Pokemon Go!

Ancient Civs started in Feb 2016

40 Players started, each playing between one and three races, starting in the Stone Age. I personally knew about 25 players, I also played, but not wholeheartedly I guess, Each player started with 1 city, of a size 4 (max 6). Players were given a set of instructions, I was available for email at any point, we had several video conferences and I made some video instructions (well, beta attempts at this) but we still didn't get even 25% attention rate of players..

I've run several Roleplay events, and getting 100% is impossible, getting 50% for the first session is a huge turnout. Usually 10-25% is standard. My friends in sales are always asking me, how do I get such a huge turnout.. mostly because 5% is standard for a sales conference.

No Players... No Game!
And so, while I was happy with a 25% attention rate, it also turned out to be my retention rate.. i.e. week after week, I was lucky to get 1/4 of the previous weeks players to remember to make a turn.

Now imagine if your a GM, running a game, you have 8 players at your first session, 2 at your next, 1 the week later and finally, you're by yourself. Dismal.

What worked: Players were interested, getting a huge number of responses from the start meant I could have had a great game. The concept was intriguing, people wanted to see where this was going to go and how it was going to work. Some didn't believe it would, but they wanted to see the train-wreck up close.

What didn't: Players were interested in seeing things happen, almost instantaneously. Is the modern role-player, so gratified in all their dealings that they can't hold out for a month? let alone a year?

So, The Interface was lacking. I gave all players carte blanche on their 'character sheets' with a template for anyone to work from.. but pretty much everyone stuck with the template.

The Maps took too long to process, and when I got a new job, and lost 40 hours of my week, this became too much to run by myself, thankfully Rory stepped up and was a great help, but maybe too late.. players were sensing a drop in the game and maybe that contributed more than I thought.

Player vs / meeting Player, didn't happen quickly enough in many players views, and this maybe was a problem in expectation.

By the time we sorted out these problems, we'd lost the interest of over a quarter of the players. Once that happened, the players still playing were encountering 'empty' players.. they didn't respond to messages, and playing a game by yourself is boring.

How to Improve: By the end of turn 12, we had a list of things we'd have liked to have done before play started.

  • Some kind of interactive map, so players could "see" their game easier.. even if turns would still be processed by GMs, they could maybe interact with the map and get a feel for whats going on.
  • GMing needed to be done, per player, and weekly.. verbally even. I think that the 15 odd email players, should have been upgraded to skype players, having the interaction with the GM, asking questions about turns, etc. Maybe using roll20 or something for the next run.
  • Allowing more scope with turns, i.e. you can be a turn late, and pre-process your turn ahead, might have helped deal with timing, and the lack or in ability for GMs to always contact a player
  • In counter to that, NOT allowing player to fall behind, even 2-3 turns, players felt like they had already lost too much and continuing was pointless
GMing 40 players in one game sounds impossible, or at least daunting, yet I've run this game with 80 and it went well. The difference was, 80 players within arms reach, I could speak with them all withing a week, remind them of their turns, the rules, they could ask questions, make deals. heck, when we had 'negotiations' we'd do it live, it was sorta fun watching two or three people negotiate contracts about a fictional universe.

Maybe they all had the same player?
What Now: Well, not to waste all the hard work done already, the GMs and some players have elected to take up the mantle of several of our lost players, and play them on until we reach turn 50. We'll see what happens, mark records of major events, and use it as a kind of decent world for roleplay.
Yet with only 8 minds, it'll be limited in the creativity, decisions, deals and crazy that it might have had, we might allow a smaller kingdom to be swallowed up into a larger one, because its easier to deal with less paperwork, while a single player may have fought it out to the bitter end, or come back from the brink of defeat with a successful event or two.

The End game was already pre-set, A great war (on a different continent) triggers a spell turning the mountains into mud, and swamping the continent, burying all the cities and such, causing people to dig into the world to retrieve their culture, creating hundreds of dungeons, which names the very game its all run in.


As per my promise, When its done, I'll draw it up, scan it, and all players that started will get a copy. If you were/are a player and you'd like to maintain influence on your race/culture, drop me a line and we'll work something out.

p.s. you may have noticed, I tried to blog my turns, I got as far as three blogs when things went sideways, I didn't publish the last two, because it didn't seem relevant, but maybe I'll do them in blocks of 4 turns and catch up.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Dungeonworld Character Creation Update

When you realise that you've being doing it wrong...

In case you haven't been reading, a quick summary. Dungeonworld, Original, 1994tm, was and is always about player choice. a set of choices for your lifestyle, your background, your career, your path to adventurous glory.

But recently I was reading how GMs and Games designers, typically, put their own psychology, their own views and theories into their games. If a GM has a particular hatred of combat, then they don't include much combat in their games. If a Games designer wants to portray the message to their players that Socialism is bad, then they may make the Orcs socialists.

Well, I may not be trying to say one or the other, oh, while I do have a fear that roleplay games are moving towards a less 'conflict' oriented style of play, as society becomes less accepting of such, and I think its dangerous to stamp out history by making our fantasy RPGs more modern, I hope that I won't be trying to influence players to be more violent in reaction to that.. 

No, instead what I realized is that I give players choice, almost too much choice, because I feel that my own life lacks choice. I'm no unique butterfly, but I do think I'm a dash of an outlier when it comes to life. I prefer not to watch TV, news, sport, facebook, social media and I like control, fine grained, pixel perfect control. So as a player, I want a system that gives me as much control as I can have.

Rolemaster: Critical charts for Broadswords..
Yes, each weapon has its own crit chart!
Yet other people, when presented with that level of control, are overwhelmed. Its too much control! choices? what? more choices? argh!, can't you just, like, give me a list or something? MATH?! Argh.. 

I have equated my full rules system to Rolemaster and GURPS when it comes to character creation.. though I have shaved a few hours off, lol. 

But it hit me recently.. My upbringing was about choice.. I was given a lot of choice, my grandparents encouraged me to try different things and I wasn't expected to 'go get a job' at 17, I was given ample opportunity to make my own choice.

Yet in a medieval environment, we're pretty sure that people would not have much in the way of choice. The rarity of disposable income, university grants, unemployment or student benefits, meant that the bulk of society had to get a job, and that often start at the age of 10-12 with apprenticeships.
Well, I didn't always used to be an Elven Wardancer.. I started out as a shoemaker.. No not that Elf.. Grrr

So, being a medieval fantasy game, it hit me.. just like their characters would have had no choice in their apprenticeships, players should have none either.

Now don't get me wrong here, I'm not taking away players agency or choice, If a player wants to sift through the rules and pick out their first career, their GM has the right to allow them.. I'm just suggesting that they gain the advantage of making it part of their backstory.

Imagine instead of being overwhelmed with lists, choices, bonuses, which one to add first, should I go A or B, which one will lead me to a more effective profession, what will give me more bonuses to my sword skills.. instead, the GM rolls on a chart, based on A) his world, B) what my higher stats would have had my folks deciding on a good career for me and C) what they could afford. This gives me a set of background skills that may or may not have helped in my future adventuring career.. but what it does do, is create some plot, some hooks, some aspect of who I was before I became a great warrior .. 

Its one of the things I loved about Warhammer, but forgot about, the 'building a backstory' from what I got as a starting career. My favourite character started as a physicians apprentice, and while I made some progress, I never ended up completing it, let alone going on to physician, and when I became a mage, I purposely chose not to take spells to do with healing and surgery, because it reminded me of the career I gave up. Now, if I hadn't had a 'rolled' background.. I'd likely have just chosen wizards apprentice from the beginning, and I would missed out on that whole aspect of story & plot.

Also career paths, lead players to try things out that, probably, unless they're deep in LORE, they're not going to even think of.. 

I mean how many of you would have though to play as a mo-hawked suicide axe-wielding Dwarf.. if it weren't for the "Giant Slayer".

Also, it saves a heck of a lot of space in the character creation pages.. which means a decrease in the costs to produce the books..


expect to see the updates to the appropriate google docs over the coming weeks.