Category Archives: Musings

Playing Dread In The Car

dreadrpgI recently picked up a copy of the horror RPG “Dread.” I read through the book and listened to this actual play podcast from The Walking Eye, which is a great primer on the game if you don’t feel like buying the book just yet. That being said, I have not yet played or hosted a game of Dread, so what follows should be taken accordingly.

I am fascinated by the action resolution mechanic in this game. A Jenga tower is, all at once, simple and inspired. It is a binary mechanic, meaning your character either lives or dies, without modifiers, by your own (hopefully) steady hand. It’s simply you and the tower. It’s quite clear how such a diceless system could create nervousness in a player as they approach the tower.

In the book, there are also several alternatives to the tower. The game Topple seems closest to the Jenga tower, but stacking dice is also suggested. Elsewhere, I have also seen building a house of cards as an alternative. All these things have something in common – they rely on a steady hand, yes, but they also rely on the presence of a steady surface. I want to propose a different resolution mechanic that does not require a steady surface, and yet instills that same growing sense of impending failure that the tower does. It uses a standard deck of cards. Continue reading

Gamma World Deck Of Many Things Contest

Today is the last day to enter the Gamma World Deck of Many Things contest. So get on it!

In other news, I’ve been working on a system for “buying” Gamma World starting items, as an alternative to rolling randomly on a table.

I was hoping to post it today, but I really don’t feel it’s ready for prime time yet. Instead, to give you an idea of what I’m working with, here’s the list of starting items from all three books: Continue reading

How I Fit Three Dungeon Command Sets Into One Box

3sets1With the new Dungeon Command set coming out this week, I thought I’d write a short article on how I fit three Dungeon Command sets into one Dungeon Command box. Fair warning, however: some of my suggestions will have the purists among you gnashing your teeth and setting your computers on fire, but for the pragmatists, these techniques will work quite well. Continue reading

Gamma World Deck of Many Things – A Contest!

DSC_0004 A few months ago, Michael Robles, the WotC Magic: The Gathering Community Brand Manager, posted a project on his blog. This project had nothing to do with M:tG however. No, it was a Gamma World Deck of Many Things. I was quite excited to see this, and even more excited to see that friend of the blog Wes Hall had done the awesome artwork for them. I wanted me a deck of that goodness.

But I didn’t want the “print and cut out yourself” version of these cards that was being offered in Microsoft Word format. No, I wanted cards – professionally printed, glossy, poker sized cards. So I contacted Wes to see if this was a possibility. He put some files together for me, and I sent them off to Superior POD to be printed.

Here’s where the story gets interesting. Continue reading

NaGa DeMon 2012: Finding Balance

Balance. It’s something all game designers struggle with at one point or another. No one wants to create a game that’s broken or that has an easily exploited loophole. No one wants to play a game that is easily won by simply having the right piece or combo – it makes players feel as if they have no real agency within the game, that their decisions matter less, and that games are won and lost not by using good strategy, but by whomever grabs “the nuclear option” first. Continue reading

NaGaDeMon 2012: The Idea

So here we are, a whole week into November, and therefore a whole week into NaGaDeMon. I am sad to report that very little has been done on my end to further the game I’m working on, but I hope to rectify that in the coming days. Never fear however, I do still feel that I will finish something by month’s end. Why? Well, I kind of have a head start. You see, I started working on a game a few years ago, and am using NaGaDeMon to motivate me to finish it. So for me, the month is more for follow through than it is for a start to finish development. I already have a rough rules set, some basic components designed, and have even done some light playtesting. It’s just not done. So what’s the game?

It’s a miniatures skirmish game aimed at 7-12 year olds called “Backyard Wars” and involves fighting bugs. Because the game is aimed at kids who have never played a skirmish game, the resolution mechanic is simple opposed rolls. Each bug has a card with a health value, an attack/defense die (same thing) and some special abilities. Each bug gets to move and act on its turn. The board is 1″ grid, with special features that players place (rocks, sticks, and water), making the board different every time.

So what are my goals for NaGaDeMon? I have a few things that I feel need to be ironed out in the game.

1. Game Balance. First and foremost, I want to make sure that no one or two bugs are so overpowered that they are an “obvious choice.” Some of the special abilities I have are always on, while some are situational. I need to offset these incomparables with varying health scores and attack dice. I also have attack dice assigned somewhat arbitrarily, and would like to be more methodical. I’ll probably make up a spreadsheet at some point just to get some side by side comparisons going. I also want to make some “starter teams” that new players can just pick up and play the first time out of the box. These teams need to be balanced as well.

2. Win conditions. “Destroy the other team” is a fine win condition…maybe. It’s a little obvious, and it doesn’t address a 3 or 4 player game. I don’t like games that eliminate players, exiling them to go sit around while the rest of the group finishes. It’s one of the things I hate about Monopoly. I have a few ideas to address this, and will probably write up a whole post about what the win conditions will be.

3. Components. I need to take some time to design good components,and maybe even price them, even if I don’t have plans to mass produce. I have some concrete ideas here; the time consuming part will be actually producing them. I’m no graphic designer.

Of these three things, I think that game balance will be most difficult, and component design has the potential to be the most time consuming. I’m hoping I get some sort of “aha” moment with win conditions; I have some ideas, but none that I’m totally thrilled about.

Hopefully, next week I’ll have an “Alpha Test” playtest document up.

Game Night: Seasons

This post is part of the Game Night Carnival in which RPG bloggers talk about some of their favorite board games. There’s a link to the Game Night homepage at the bottom of the article.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Washington DC and was fortunate enough that my trip coincided with the Labyrinth Game Store’s open board game night. Upon entering the store and making my way to the game tables, I overheard a few patrons talking. “Is that Seasons?” said one. “Yeah, I hear [the owner of the store] is totally addicted to this game right now.”  So I thought to myself, “Well, I need to try this game then.” And I did. And I found out why the proprietor loves the game so much.

First, a little disclaimer. I’ve only played Seasons once, and with a few other first-timers, so I may have missed some of the finer points of gameplay in this post. However, I had so much fun playing the game that I wanted to share the experience, and encourage you to go out and buy this new game – it’s a good one. Continue reading

National Game Design Month 2012 And Me

Just this past week, I became aware of the National Game Design Month (NaGaDeMon). While I had heard plenty about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in past years, I had never been interested in taking part. NaGaDeMon, however, I can get on board with. In fact, I have a partially finished board game sitting in my filing cabinet right now. So, my goal for the month of November will be to complete the game. I will have more details in a few weeks, when the month actually starts including where the game is currently, and what my challenges are. I’m also hoping to post the rules and other bits so that you can playtest it. Yes, you. At this point, I have no real interest in board game production, so when the month is done, I’m hoping to release the game into the wild. Continue reading

Warehouse 13 As An RPG Setting

Over the past year or so, I’ve heard several different people, in different venues, talk about how cool a D&D Warehouse 13 -inspired campaign would be. Granted, the fact that the show is centered around “magic items” makes it ripe for translation to high fantasy, but I think they’re missing something that could make their campaign so much better: Gamma World, both mechanically and thematically, is a much better fit for what they’re trying to do.

But first, for those of you who are wondering what the heck “Warehouse 13″ is: Warehouse 13 is a series on the SyFy channel that depicts a super secret warehouse in South Dakota. This warehouse was built to store “artifacts” that have magical properties both good and bad. There are two secret service agents assigned to the warehouse whose job it is to track down and recover newly discovered artifacts, and bring them to the warehouse. In the words of the show: “snag, bag, and tag.” If you want more details, and you’re a Netflix subscriber, you can (currently) stream the first three seasons. Given the chance, here is how I would run a Warehouse 13 themed Gamma World campaign. Continue reading

Game Night: Pandemic

This blog post is a part of the Game Night Blog Carnival where RPG Bloggers talk about their favorite board games. If you’re an RPG Blogger and would like to join, check the FAQ.

Recently, I’ve really been enjoying the gameplay in cooperative games. There are actually many games that fall into this category – Forbidden Island, Arkham Horror, the new Zombicide (I’m hoping Going Last reviews this one soon…), and today’s pick, Pandemic.

A few months ago for Game Night Carnival, I reviewed Forbidden Island. That game still holds a popular place in our game nights as well as being a game I introduce to non-gamers. What a lot of people don’t know is that the same guy who designed Forbidden Island also designed a game called Pandemic. It shares a lot of the same traits, but is also much (much) harder, and also has a more mature feel to it. In my estimation, that’s a good thing. Continue reading