Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Organizing the Chaos [Fires Across the Plains]

I am the Warden!!

This week is committed to the completion of Fires Across the Plains first complete draft. I have to admit that this project was not underestimated so much as my plot was underestimated. It's typical of me to overshoot my expectations and find myself adapting to the complexity (if anything, it's very inspirational and gives me a real swift kick in the butt to get going) and, in its own way, has made me more confident for another one. Down the road, after getting some other major projects out of the way (Reloaded and Optional Core).

As I've written about before, learning the best approach to handle the chaos that is a gamebook required some early research and has since been adjusted. There have been some hiccups along the way and corrections have been made, which is predominantly why this draft has taken a couple extra weeks to complete. As promised, I thought I'd take some time to go over that very process.

Stating the inevitable here, but writing a gamebook carries one major distinction to writing a regular game or short story: the chronology is out of whack. Keeping it organized is the key to not screwing it up and organization is still a significant aspect of this work I'm struggling with. (Just this past weekend, I lost my playtest character for Fraser Ronald's Centurion RPG and had to start over, despite the fact that I'm playing from home at the same desk using Skype and the character sheet shouldn't be anywhere else but my desk.) For many, the entire plot is laid out in great detail using post-it notes and flowcharts, leaving the bulk of the writing centring on filling in the details and descriptions. As previously discussed in the above link, it's a process I have difficulty with because it feels stifling. When I write, I love to experience the story unfolding as I write it. In a way, it's how I verify the errors in my plot before making a second pass to fill in any gaps, beef up the details, and flesh it into something real. I needed a way to accomplish both the organization and freedom without sacrificing either.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Championship Match & Unbelievable Odds [TPK]

I have to admit, no idea why I'm using this infamous D&D pic.
Until I can draft up a TPK logo, it's a good visual for the game
whenever I post updates or related material. 
I am the Warden!!

Fun time last night. We had a couple of friends over, including one of my fiancee's cousins, for a bunch of games and beverages that would make it unwise to drive. For Chris and I, it was a chance to finish up our initial match of TPK.

On Thursday, I talked about this work-in-progress skirmish game and provided a download to the first draft PDF. The day before, Chris and I ran a match in the Arena for 60 minutes before he had to go running back to school. Unfortunately, we weren't finished because of something I expected to be a rare event in the game: we had a tie.

To refresh, the goal of TPK is to end a 60-minute match with a single combatant holding the highest number of Damage points declared the Victor. In the event of a tie between two or more combatants, a special match is declared with both combatants entering a new Arena and fighting to the death. These matches differ in that every combatant starts with an amount of Health equal to their previous Damage score, thereby putting everyone off on a stronger and equal footing.

If a combatant is still alive at the end of a regular match and has the highest number of Damage points, that character is instead declared the Champion and is permanently added to the deck of combatants. The concept behind Champions is to reward such a rare occurrence, seeing as the theme behind the game is death (hence the name TPK).

In the case of our first match, when the timer sounded the end of the match, we had two standing combatants with a tie for the highest Damage (9 points). That's right, our first time ever playing this game and we have to go to a tie-breaking match to determine who would be declared the Champion and be added to the deck.

I'm not one for probability calculation, but I know my expectation of this happening was incredibly rare. We'll have to see if that's the case and as excited as I am for it to have happened out first time out, if it's actually a frequent event, I'm torn. On one hand, the original concept of the game was for everyone to die... a lot. That was part of the fun. If it's regularly possible for multiple Champion candidates in a single game, do I still want to call it TPK? Or do I want to play around with the gears and make it less frequent?

We shall see. As I've said before, this game is very much a side project run on my spare time (I know, that actually sounds ludicrous as I'm technically not employed and freelancers aren't supposed to have spare time) and I'm not sure when I'll be able to run another test or get to any of the revisions noted so far. I will say this... it was a lot of fucking fun. My hopes are high on this one.

You can download the first draft of TPK here. No charge, it's on me.