So, after advice from former posts to The Forge (www.indie-rpgs.com), I decided to write what is called the Power 19 for my game. Basically it was a way of, well, destribing your game, and basically getting you to think about it. This is my second draft of it (my first was pretty terrible and half-assed), so here it is.
I suppose I can take solice in the fact that even if I do get something wrong, no one is probably going to read it. I don't know, maybe I'm being to hard on myself, but does anyone actually read this blog? Maybe it's too soon, maybe I need to post to more forums, maybe I need to trade links (or whatever the advice on it was). I don't know, am I being too hard on myself, or is there more I should be doing to make this more public?
If someone is actually read this, I've got two questions. First, what do you think? Second, a new trial name is "Escape from Illeria." What do you think?
1.) What is your game about?
Game X is about conflict encounters as parties of adventurers explore and loot the lost Island of Illeria. Illeria was once home to the most powerful wizards of the world (who have sense mysteriously vanished), and sits on a rift between this world and the world made of magic and spiritual energy. It is about the desperation of characters who are trying to escape the island with their lives. Each game revolves around a single battle between rival parties. Victory in battle is (hopefully) determined mainly by strategy, rather than by luck. Each party has the possibility of being very unique, so that different parties (or different enemies) can provide significantly different game experiences.
2.) What do the characters do?
Each character is a member of a party exploring Illeria in search of fame, treasure, and power. Parties were sent to the Illeria with specific contracts, stating that they must collect a specified amount of treasure before they can return. Each party is lead by a single character (the “general”). The general is often the senior most member of the party, whose job is to act as the brains of the operation, instructing others in what to do. The remainder of the party is made up of adventure seekers and mercenaries who have come to Illeria generally for personal gain. They follow the general loyally (usually), and make up the brute force of most operations, acting in many ways as an extension of the general.
Over several battles, characters in the party advance, however they also become injured over time die.
3.) What do the players (including the GM if there is one) do?
Each player controls a party of individual characters. During battle, players control battles from the level of the general. Each battle takes place in both the physical world and the spirit world simultaneously, and players must choose how to allocate resources. Between battles each player controls the advancement of each character, and prepares them for future battles.
Game X has no GM.
4.) How does your setting (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?
Each team of characters has a contract with a king, merchant, or other important and powerful figure. Their contract defines exactly what they must return with. Thus, given the harshness of combat on Illeria, each group only truly desires to be on the island for the minimal time possible, after which they can return home to their families.
5.) How does the Character Creation of your game reinforce what your game is about?
Each character in Game X has two bodies, one in the real world and one in the spirit world. Each character begins with a basic set of combat-oriented statistics, and from that becomes unique by taking “advancements” (i.e. new abilities or stat increases). Players can choose from a pool of over 100 advancements for each character, allowing them to make their parties exactly how they wish. Players do not buy set models for this game, but rather are expected to provide their own (a fantasy setting was chosen for this reason, since it offers the widest range of models to choose from).
6.) What types of behaviors/styles of play does your game reward (and punish if necessary)?
Good military strategy and good planning are rewarded in this game, and conversely bad strategy and planning are punished.
7.) How are behaviors and styles of play rewarded or punished in your game?
The better a player’s strategy, the more likely they are to win battles. Additionally, after each game, parties will reap the rewards or punishments of the game. Rewards will include character advancement and gaining treasure, punishment will include character death and equipment damage.
8.) How are the responsibilities of narration and credibility divided in your game?
Each player is wholly responsible for controlling their own party.
9.) What does your game do to command the players' attention, engagement, and participation? (i.e. What does the game do to make them care?)
Game X is fairly fast paced. Each turn generally lasts less than 20 minutes (usually ~15). Additionally, unlike many strategy games, players do not have turns of their own. Instead, players share each portion of the turn. Two phases of the turn require a player’s active engagement at all times. In the third phase, players will take turns making single small actions. Because of this, a player will rarely be disengaged from the game for more than a minute.
10.) What are the resolution mechanics of your game like?
Resolution is determined by a well-defined rule system. Most effects are determined by a dice roll, or in some cases a series of dice rolls. Players generally play until one player retreats or surrenders, however some games will be played until a particular tactical victory is achieved.
11.) How do the resolution mechanics reinforce what your game is about?
By having all of the rules well-defined, each player is clearly aware of the strengths and limitations of their characters, and what each is capable of. Additionally, it will allow him to approximately gauge the ability of his opponents (although, stealth and bluffing will, or at least can, be a major component of strategy). Without a clear rule system, it would be much more difficult to play strategically, and to determine a winner fairly in the absence of a GM.
12.) Do characters in your game advance? If so, how?
At the end of each battle, characters gain new abilities, or stat increases. Characters who are killed in battle can receive penalties in future battles, or possibly die. Generally, advancement should approximately offset permanent damage, so that parties will not have a huge change in power level over time (thus allowing most games to stay competitive). However, nearly all parties will be annihilated after too long (unless they are able to complete their mission first).
13.) How does the character advancement (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?
The ever-present chance of death will help encourage a sense of desperation, and will create the need for characters to manage their resources well. The character advancement will help to keep battles interesting, so that the party is not exactly the same from game to game.
14.) What sort of product or effect do you want your game to produce in or for the players?
I hope to generate a feeling of both realism and desperation in the players. Players will need to manage their resources well, both during a battle and afterwards, otherwise their parties will not survive. Players will be discouraged from taking pointless risks, and from fighting for the sake of fighting (or for gaining experience). I also hope that players will generate a real connection to their characters, at a level much greater than those experienced in a typical wargame (though perhaps less than a typical RPG). Finally, I hope that this game actively engages the minds of the players, and makes them plan much more than in a typical wargame. Hopefully planning and strategizing will occur to a high degree throughout the game.
15.) What areas of your game receive extra attention and color? Why?
Magic, summoned creatures, constructs, and character creation. Each of these elements is given extra attention so that players can craft exactly the party they want. Hopefully, players will be able to specialize their parties, so that each particular group feels very different to battle. Additionally, magic, constructs, and summoned creatures were given extra color to create multiple layers of the game (so that a beginning player can learn a simple game without magic, and once they have mastered the rules, learn about new and intriguing abilities).
Also, I have attempted to make the spirit world much different than the real world, from the abilities to the basic troop types. I hope that this creates a very qualitatively different feel to interactions in each world.
16.) Which part of your game are you most excited about or interested in? Why?
To be honest, it changes from week to week. Perhaps I’m just excited about too many parts of the game. I’ve been exited about magic, summoned, creatures, and constructs, because they are all such fun and interesting rules. I’ve been really interested in the fully customizable nature of character design and party development (including the fact that there will be no set pieces). Also, I have been extremely exited about the unique campaign mode. Also, I have been excited about the dual nature of the game, and how each board will have a very different feel to it (and hopefully different tactics).
17.) Where does your game take the players that other games can’t, don’t, or won’t?
One very unique factor about Game X is that it is played on two boards. This adds a new depth of strategy, since characters must split their concentration, and cannot simply rely on being able to hold a competitive dominance on one board. Additionally, this game is in all ways basically a strategy wargame, however it allows the player to keep the same characters from one battle to another, allowing them to advance and change. What’s more, unlike many campaign strategy games, the advancement is not monotonically upward, but rather generally downward. Finally, this game has a very strong planning component in the leadership system, which requires a large degree of strategizing and outthinking your foe.
18.) What are your publishing goals for your game?
Design a game that I can be really proud of, and then sell enough copies to break even. I hope to accomplish this by selling pdfs online, and possibly by selling actual copies from a POD service.
19.) Who is your target audience?
My target audience will mainly be players who enjoy small-scale war games. Additionally, I expect to be able to generate a good bit of interest from RP gamers who enjoy combat games (or, who just occasionally enjoy hack-n-slash).
Well, to anyone reading this, thank you so much, and fare well.
PS So apparently 2 more people in my Peace Corps group have left. I guess we're down from 67 to 58. Its always kind of sad to hear that. Although my appeal is almost finished, and I'm about to send it in, so we'll see how that goes. Hopefully the bureaucrats in Washington will, like, begin processing it within a month.