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Random Thoughts of a Game Developer

Archive for the month “April, 2011”

No review, but plenty of other stuff to talk about…

Well, that fell through disastrously. The promised review isn’t done. I simply haven’t had the time. I apologize, but it has since occurred to me that maybe my brother’s review blog isn’t the right format for an indy RPG review in any case. I mean, it’s a great format; I wish more in-depth reviews used it, but going over some of his stuff I have come to the conclusion that maybe… just maybe… it’s a format that works better for visual media. More specifically, I could see using it for TV and Movies… but less so for books or video games. Maybe I should try to find a format of my own to use…

In development news, I got more work done last night on my Essence system than in the preceding week all together, and it looks like I may pull off much the same thing tonight, which is fantastic. I have the basic task resolution mechanic in place, and have begun constructing character creation rules, along with everything that will appear on a character. Which brings me to a question.

I’m looking at dividing the combat mechanic up, essentially making two different combat systems for the game. The idea runs like this:

  1. Standard Combat: This combat system eschews battle maps and the related tactical side of combat. The idea is to have a simple, quick to run system for folks who don’t want to spend a lot of time on combat, or who like their combat map-free.
  2. Art of War: This is the map combat system for Essence, with a focus on tactical movement. Art of War requires players to make a sort of sub-character, derived from the main character sheet, that has information specific to Art of War combat. The eventual idea would be to make it so you could just make the Art of War sheet, allowing groups to have fun little skirmish battles and run pvp tournies if that’s what they’re into without getting into a full-on game.
So yeah, in a way, the Art of War combat system is a game within a game. It’s all very complicated, tautological, and Hamlet-esque.
At any rate, keeping in mind the two modes of running combat above, I’m wondering if things like defense (i.e. what a character does to avoid getting tagged in combat) should be separate derived abilities, or if they should be based directly on Skills (the Essence system is a Skill based one – did I forget to mention that?). That is to say, should characters have a separate sub-stat  that works sort of like a Challenge rating for how hard they are to hit, or should Characters be expected to buy up skills for use in defense or default to an Agility stat for a defense check?

I’m not really asking anyone in particular this question, you understand. I mean, I welcome any and all opinions on the matter – and would be more than happy to clarify the conundrum if you need me to… but mostly I’m talking about it here so that I can get my brain wrapped around the problem. I guess it comes down to this: how much complexity do I want in the Standard Combat system? The whole purpose of dividing the combat systems into two different methods is so that a game group can choose between a simple, streamlined, relatively quick combat system (if their game is combat light, or they don’t want to deal with the complexity of battle-map based tactical combat) and a more in-depth tactical skirmish system that uses minis and so on (if the game has a lot of combat, or the group enjoys full tactical combat similar to what’s found in the more recent editions of Dungeons & Dragons).

I want groups to have that choice. Of course, groups always have that choice – nothing stops you from ignoring tactical map-based combat rules in any game you play. I want the choice up-front and supported either way by the system. Is that too much to hope for?

As a final note: as of this writing, in about two hours, the sixth series of the new Doctor Who (or the thirty-sixth season of Doctor Who, if you prefer to think of it that way) will air in England. Here in the States, of course, we have to wait another 12 hours or so to see it, but I just wanted to let everyone know how excited I am that it’s finally here (YAY!!). Everyone got their scarfs, sonic screwdrivers, and TARDIS keys ready? Fantastic. Hopefully, I’ll be able to post a few thoughts on the episode tonight. If not, look forward to a post about the episode tomorrow.
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Upcoming Stuff: Blame My Brother

So, I’ve been following my brother’s movie review blog since he launched it. You can find it here, and you should – he does some fantastic in-depth movie reviews, and he also occasionally makes statements about genre pictures. He covers “speculative fiction“, although his focus seems to be on horror and kaiju.

In any case, his method is kinda different and fun: he watches the movie while he writes the review, occasionally pausing the film to write longer bits of commentary. The full, spoileriffic reviews are a delight to read, and his process comes through in every sentence. Which gave me an idea. I thought I might try doing the same things with RPGs. I enjoy reading the rulebooks for Role Playing Games, and while there are many sites that provide reviews for the hobby, none of them really express my views, or go as in-depth as I’d like.

I plan to primarily work with indie games, especially the free ones. I will comment on everything I can think of, but whether I like the game or not, I’ll provide links to homepages, or, for the ones you have to pay for, appropriate links to facilitate purchase. I hope to have my first one done some time next week.

If you find this all to be a big waste of time, or you hate the reviews, or whatever, well… blame my brother. He’s the one who inspired this. Of course, he didn’t do it on purpose or anything… but blame him anyway.

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A Plea for Help

I just made a Facebook post, but I realize that some people that it might pertain to don’t have a Facebook page (and neither would I, if I could think of a better way to communicate with so many friends at the same time; I frakkin’ hate Facebook). So, I decided that I would re-post the whole of the post here on my Blog. This is mostly in the interest of getting to as many people as possible who have played in my Essence campaign setting; if you haven’t, you might as well click on something more interesting right now. I suggest this:

Epic Rap Battles of History – Hitler vs. Darth Vader:

P. S. – You should watch it even if you have a comment to make…

EDIT: My apologies – I forgot to include my Facebook post:

“Alright… this is directed to anyone who has ever played in the Essence/Tyrce Campaign Setting. If the preceding sentence made no sense to you, feel free to ignore this update.


I’m looking for memories, loves, hates, complaints about GMing style… anything at all pertaining to the Essence/Tyrce campaign setting. To those I gamed with back when I lived in the Greater Chicago Area, I’m actually referring to literally every game I DMed, even though the world we gamed in was never specifically named.


I’m also looking for memories of games in that setting that I didn’t actually run – especially those set in a science fiction or otherwise not-classic-fantasy setting.


I’m working on two books – one an official campaign guide with a role playing system included, the other the first in a series of novels. This is serious – if I’ve ever even spoken to you about the setting, I want your input, impressions, and ideas.


I will be grateful for any and all help anyone can give me. Thanks in advance to anyone who helps out.”

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