Sunday, 20 November 2011

Redpill Diary #4: Down the Rabbit Hole

I am the Warden!!

Seems I've decided to juggle several balls at once this week. No longer content to balance the delicate conclusion of Shadoworld while working on building a playtest job for Killshot, I've suddenly felt the need to get some work done on Redpill as well. Might have something to do with the numbers my Matrix posts get in comparison to everything else (about a 1000% difference).

As I've said in my original declaration of this project, I'm aiming to make Redpill a truly epic free RPG unlike all the other Matrix wannabes out there but there needs to be a coherent start for curious readers to latch onto. I could spend pages and pages going on about all the history of the Matrix setting and the intention of my game design, but then you're just reading the same kind of text as every other game out there. I want something captivating right from the get-go.

One of the demanding parts of developing a RPG based on a film or series of films is that you have to watch the film(s) repeatedly to get the material just right. It's a bloody shame, it is, and that's exactly what I did yesterday. While watching Neo take the red pill and become ejected from the Matrix, I could see a correlation between Neo's plight and the demands of character creation. While he may exist in the Matrix as Thomas A. Anderson, computer programmer, that life no longer exists once he takes the red pill - he is creating a new persona for himself. He is creating a new character. Perfect!

I've set out to make the introduction of Redpill a joint explanation/character creation venture for players and Director to roleplay through, thereby explaining the rules of the game and building the foundations for a new character. There's even a way to determine if your character will be a redpill or bluepill by introducing Challenges (you must roll your dice for the trace program used by Morpheus to locate your position and awaken you from the Matrix before its security detects the hack and sends Agents to eliminate the threat). My opinion may be biased, but it's going incredibly well so far.

In the past two months, I have written three different versions of the same rules in three different styles, each one presenting the basis for the game in a different order. For the core version of Optional: Playtest, everything is presented in a very clinical manner, step-by-step, to avoid any future tense (i.e. "See XXX below for more information on YYY"). Its text was very direct and straight forward. Killshot's provisions of the rules were similar, but written in a very abstract dialogue as if an assassin were demonstrating these particulars to a naive student. Redpill's explanations turn all that work on its head and explains the rules on a "need to know" basis, detailing how to use dice rolls before explaining options, series, and other concepts.

Being able to write out the fundamentals of the Optional System in three different styles while maintaining clarity has been extremely rewarding and helps demonstrate the OS' flexibility. More importantly, starting off the game with a hybrid of exposition and character creation allows Directors to introduce the game through a familiar setting any fan of the films can recognize. As they go through the process of escaping the Matrix, more and more pieces of their character's future become apparent until they complete their training and get ready to rock the Matrix.

Colour me happy.