Ghosts and Stuff
Last year I spent a lot of my free time making a “ghost game”. Each adventure would be a sort of murder-mystery where you play as a group of ghosts trying to solve the details of your demise. I ended up scrapping it, but thought I’d do a bit of a post-mortem (ha) as to why.
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A design journal, sort of.
One of the things I like most about the Mothership RPG books is how they manage their information density. There is a LOT crammed into each page, and it all still works. The Player’s Survival Guide is a decent example of this, using a traditional two column layout, but the adventure modules like Dead Planet and beyond are where this really starts to ramp up.
Page for page, there are thick layers of info, but it’s all presented in such a way that you’re never lost. You can see the obvious care that went into every inch of the layout, where every idea is given its due. Considering the physical constraints of a “page”, there’s no sense of compromise.
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Years ago I made a prototype for a board game set in a dark-humour dystopia where players took on the role of waste management professionals. Their job, to sort the garbage that accumulated at their central processing facility. During the game, players salvaged and smuggled various materials for themselves, which they could then craft into various items that granted different advantages and abilities.
The salvageable idea from this game is the use of permutations to create an organized crafting system. Because a core mechanic of the game was about crafting dozens of items, I wanted to make sure there was a way to keep track of the materials used for each item, and that each crafting “recipe” was unique.
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I read RPG books exponentially more than I play the games they are meant to conjure. Within each of them, one thing remains consistent. The system or setting routinely assumes that some form of violence is going to occur and that players will need to know, in great mechanical detail, how to carry it out.
So, question: Are extensive combat rules included in games because designers assume that players are likely to resort to violence? Or, that because extensive combat rules exist, players feel compelled to resort to violence?
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A Good Idea
Dabbling in both tabletop and digital games, over the last few decades I have amassed a respectable (i.e.: embarrassing) stack of unfinished prototypes. Many still taking up space on a hard drive or contributing to the bowing of a shelf somewhere. The shelf looks happy, so I leave it alone.
But there’s got to be some gold in those unfinished abstracts, right? I figure that any given prototype has at least one salvageable idea. So, over the next few posts, I thought I’d take a look at a few of my favourites and share them with the void.
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