Saturday, November 20, 2021

Further Inspiration-Warping: Cyberpunk, Space Horror

Welcome to my game design therapy journal.

 Since my last post, my attention has fluctuated through/between:

  • A: Some rules for a cyberpunk version of the skirmish game rules, focused on hacking
  • B: Creating a spin-off solo hacking card game all the way to a prototype in TTS 
  • C: A notional cyberpunk RPG ruleset which is itself the system the PCs are literally hacking and breaking, made by a fictional game company representing the in-game corporation. Not really sure how to actually make it though, probably won't be more than a fun concept write-up. Maybe I'll share that at least.
  • D: Youtube watching shifted from fantasy terrain crafting to Sci-fi, and a growing visceral desire to get my hands into it
  • E: Skeletal ideas for combining some of the above with my nascent Alien Dark space horror RPG rules into a kind of narrative co-op Alien+"Space Hulk with civilians" miniature/board game.
  • F: Left Field - slight hints of dipping into playtesting and/or hacking Chris McDowell's OTHER mini ruleset Project 10...

B is vaguely promising. And, in creating it I learned Nandeck, which will help me further test Primal Wild, a solo card game from a while ago that I was really keen on but stalled on playtesting. But I'm not in the headspace for that yet.


 I'm still really torn on getting into physical terrain crafting, but the pull has been strong. Something makes me feel like doing it means i need minis themselves, and that's yet another whole world that takes investment. And I'm sure my interest horizon just won't support it.

E is taking most of my mind share right now. Another way to put it would be along the lines of Betrayal at House on the Hill plus Mothership. A board-game like set of procedures, and lots of random tables (or maybe card decks to pull from) for how things go wrong, in formed by my Alien Dark project. Various scenarios for strange space horrors to get chased by, either controlled by another character, or maybe some solo AI. 

But my brain is tying it so closely to a desire for physical spaceship terrain that my resistance to going in on that is blocking further progress. I have delusions of terrain that would have labelled wall and floor panels the players would have to travel to and literally pop off, exposing wires and pipework and mechanisms that need repair or rerouting or something, to open or lock doors and stuff. It feels tangible and "sticky", but I'm sure is not really tractable in practice.

F just seems kind of fun, ability combos that are fast to play and easy to hack. I've usually been even less interested in that scale of wargame than I was with mini skirmish games though, so who knows how long that would last.

Ok well this is kind of a pointless post. Here, have some of the videos that have been lodged deep in my subconcious of late:

And here's where the horror part comes in.
Gert is some kind of unspeakable elder god of crafting.

Monday, November 8, 2021

Inspiration Shift: Miniature Skirmish Wargames

Been a while so I'm forcing myself to write up what I've been thinking about, regardless of the state it ends up in.

Getting a bit slogged in detailing out the many factions in the Offbeat Megadungeon, I was easy prey for alternative inspiration, which came on swift and silent wing in the form of Chris McDowell's GRIMLITE/The Doomed miniature wargame ruleset. Which I learned of from some podcast interview (Mud & Blood I think), disconnected from the digital RPG socmed sprawl as I've been.

I've only ever been vaguely interested in miniature games; the material investment has always outweighed the draw. Usually I'm drawn more to crafting terrain, and I've been comfort-watching a lot of youtube vids of such.

But a very stripped-down, fast-playing, small-team ruleset seems really appealing, at least for just playing around with the game design. As Chris puts it, GRIMLITE is no-measuring, no stacking, no tracking. 

Searching around the space for similar games, the ones most interesting to me have been Five Leagues to the Borderlands, Chromehammer, and Emmy's The Dolorous Stroke (though it's pretty heavy on tracking).

There are a few concepts I want to explore that this kind of ruleset lends itself to.

  • Verticality of the physical game space, even more than what I've seen of Necromunda. Makes the most sense in a Cyberpunk mileau. Difficult to set up and visualize for digital playtesting though.
  • Crunchy position-manipulating tactics, ala Into the Breach and Fights in Tight Spaces. I saw this happening a little bit with 5 Leagues, but also seems to be good for Cyberpunk (think John Wick)
  • Just making a bunch of fun abilities that alter a core ruleset.
  • Some ideas around self-balancing point-buy systems.

Also the "narrative" (which seems to me more like "procedure- and roll table-heavy")  campaign structure of this style of game seems to fit with and lend itself really to the kind of solo play i've been getting into during the pandemic (5 leagues is specifically solo, and there's a solo campaign version of Chromehammer).

I've spun up a promising mashup of GRIMLITE and 5 Leagues that I've had fun with designing if nothing else. Keeping it in my pocket for now but might share in a later form. But here's an excerpt of the core melee exchange rules, primarily inspired by 5 Leagues. 

Note: Units have between 3 (basic) and 5 (Leaders) Combat Dice, but various traits and weapon tags alter this amount, often depending on certain conditions and whether you're attacking or defending in that exchange.

Melee Exchanges

  • A Melee Attack initiates a series of up to three Exchanges

  • The Initiator is Attacker in the first Exchange (Certain weapon tags may alter this)

  • In each Exchange...

    • Attacker and Defender secretly decide how many of their Combat Dice to commit for that Exchange, removed from their Total CD available for the rest of the Melee.

      • If you have a Readied Ally Unit in base contact with you AND/OR your Attacker, gain +1 CD when Defending

      • You may (or may need to) commit no CD, or have negative CD. In this case, your roll is treated as a 1

    • Attacker and Defender roll their committed CD, select their highest die, and compare them. 

      • If the Attacker has the higher die, they cause 1 Wound to the Defender

        • On a 6, you may trigger certain effects from Traits/Tags

      • If it is a tie, the Attacker chooses to either Backstep, Press, or Shove (ending the melee)

      • If the Defender has the higher die, they become the Attacker in the next Exchange. They may also choose to Dodge, or Disengage (ending the melee).

        • On a 6, you may trigger certain effects from Traits/Tags

  • After the final Exchange (the third, or if the Melee is ended early)

    • The Defender Disengages

  • Shove: The Defender moves away from the Attacker by the Attacker's base width

  • Press: As Shove, but the Attacker also moves up into Contact

  • Dodge: Move up to 90 degrees around a base you're in contact with

  • Disengage: Move your base width away from a base you're in contact with

  • Backstep: As Disengage, but Unit that was in contact may choose to step back into contact with you.

Definitely crunchier than GRIMLITE, and even 5 Leagues, but these exchanges are kind of the core concept of a game like this, and from playtesting, they're tense and engaging enough to justify a bit of complexity for what I'm aiming for.

But then the miniature elephant in the room - I'm not going to get a bunch of physical minis. particularly since this is probably yet another passing fancy that I'll be dropping for the next thing in 2D6 weeks.

Tabletop Simulator would be good but it is sooo clunky  in some specific ways (and non-aesthetic, counter to one of the primary appeals of mini games in the first place). I wonder if there are other more suitable digital tools for this kind of thing.

Google Slides actually worked really well for quick playtesting, at least for simple setups. Just copy the current slide and go from there for the next action/turn. Here's a half-baked playtest of my nascent rules. Which went pretty well so far - I like the tough-decision-making of the dice-commiting mechanic, and the dynamism of the forced movement baked into the melee procedure.

social erosion, or, how do i even be on the internet anymore

heres one of those self-reflective posts or whatever, i hear its good to "blog" Post-G+, my only RPGsphere social presence aside f...