Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Killshot: An Assassin's Journal

I am the Warden!!

Been pretty quiet around here, huh? You don't think I've been slacking off, have you? Far from the truth, my friends, the Warden has been typing away.

I've been toying around with the idea of putting together a short, basic OSRPG mini-game for a couple of weeks to meet a couple of objectives. First, to demonstrate the Optional System in something a little more user-friendly than a generic system resource document. And second, because I'm broke. Sitting at home designing roleplaying games while unemployed doesn't exactly add any digits to the back account... yet. I wanted to design something quick and simple, yet engaging, to engage players and show off just how versatile the Optional System is.

The idea came to me suddenly last week and I've been plugged in front of my laptop ever since. It's (tentatively*) called Killshot: An Assassin's Journal. What could you possibly play in a game with a title like that? Why, assassins, of course.

Pulling the Trigger on Killshot
Anyone who knows my previous work through Emerald Press may remember Break & Enter, a D&D 4e product detailing stealth encounters. The goal of B&E was to create a more versatile means for all D&D character to use subterfuge and infiltration as an alternative to the standard hack-and-slash games. Existing characters were able to sneak up on targets and kill them in one shot without alerting others to their presence, work their way through a dungeon room-by-room, and operate undetected. One of the great unexpected benefits of playtesting B&E was the planning phase. Players who loved stealth encounters really got a kick out of standing back, observing their surroundings, and devising a plan to get the job done.

This became the inspiration for Killshot. Taking that concept of prep work and ramping it up a notch. Assassins are not mindless killing machines barging into a room full of bodyguards and popping a cap in all their sorry asses. They are meticulous planners, monitoring their target's activities for days or weeks at a time before making the final move. They have time to devise the best strategy suited to their individual skills to gain the best chances of success. For Killshot, I wanted to take the concept used in B&E and apply them into the Optional System as a team of assassins taking on various jobs.

I've never mentioned anything about this project before because I wanted to make sure it would work before shooting my mouth off. The mechanics of the Optional System were already in place, I wasn't worried about that, but how would they translate into this design? The answer: incredibly well with very few adaptations.

Killshot is designed more as a one-shot RPG with room for Directors to build a continuing campaign or simply add it to the mix every once in a while. Characters perform jobs (assassinations) given to them from buyers (clients) with a certain number of objectives. These objectives are the specifications a buyer needs from the asssassins in order to be happy with the work and pay them for their efforts and can include specifics such as who gets killed, destroying information, the location where the job must take place, and more. Players must complete the job while honoring all objectives in order to get paid and take on future jobs.

That's the bread of the game. The butter comes in the planning phase. It's up to the players to determine how they're going to meet those objectives successfully by studying the mark (the target) and learning as much about him or her to devise a plan they can pull off. When all the pieces are in place, it's go time. It's a game combining a healthy mix of intrigue and combat, leaving each group room to lean towards one side or the other as they see fit. Because it's not just about getting the job done, it's about not getting caught.

Needless to say, Killshot's not designed for kids or anyone with morals. It's a game about committing professional murder and not for the faint of heart. It's also going to be around 50 pages, including rules (which itself run in at 20+ pages in Optional: Playtest). I needed to present this game as a basic version of the Optional System and set the tone all in one fell swoop, detailing the nitty gritty of how to play and leaving the setting loose enough for each Director to do with as they see fit. (It's pretty much set in the modern world, but can easily be adapted for anything else you want to dabble in.)

The book's presented by a retired assassin explaining the craft to a wannabe-killer. Including the rules. It was a challenge at first to explain a roleplaying game without explaining it like a typical roleplaying game. The text needed to invoke the mood of the game - dark, intense, and graphic - while providing rules working in harmony with the text. And I wanted it to be a fun read, to entice the reader to become a Director and pull off a quick night of Killshot within the week. All within 50 pages.

At the moment, I'm looking at 35 pages of content and it's flowing quite nicely. This includes an introduction, rules, options, reactions, and 5 different Focus for characters to choose from (Bomber, Burglar, Enforcer, Hunter, and Sniper) with gear, skills, guidelines for creating and running jobs for the Director, and sample jobs left to go. Am I happy? Hell yeah. But she still needs to be tested.

My plan is to have the completed first draft ready by the end of this week and send out to playtesters by Sunday. I have my own playtest scheduled for the 18th and my go-to playtesters of old have eagerly volunteered their services to try this puppy out. If anyone else is eager, just give the work and I'll send it out for your perusal.

I'd like to have this sucker released in the first quarter of 2012. Price point is still on the table, but not until I have a complete word count. Needless to say, I'm expecting to sell it for around $5 in PDF and have a POD softcover for around $20. It will also be the first release from my new imprint, Broken Ruler Games, on RPGNow, DriveThruRPG, and any other channels I can get my hands on. It will be predominantly a PDF release, but I'm keeping my options open at this point. If anything, I'm using Killshot as a gauge for releasing an independent product, something I'm not experienced in. Everything else I've worked on before has been tied to existing licenses and allowed me to fall back on "Hey, it's a D&D book!" The information gained from this product will help me define my parameters on future releases.

It feels good to have that publishing itch again. I've missed it.

*By tentatively, I mean there's a nagging suspicion that another game exists out there called Killshot, but I can't find it. Several Google searches have yielded nothing (a downloadable video game called "Kill Shot" but nothing else), but that feeling hasn't gone away yet. If anyone knows of something with the same name, please let me know.

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