Monday, May 09, 2005So Ben had a good idea for a post: talk about your past RPG designs, successful or otherwise. Here we go. You might want to go get coffee first.
This was my first stab at game design, age 12. I fell in love with the classic Marvel Super Heroes RPG and its colorful universal action chart, and decided to make my own game using the chart as a base. I still have the hand-colored crayola marker charts in a box somewhere. PCs were intergalactic bounty hunters with crazy powers. The only cool part: you didn't have to be a "party." The PCs were free to team up or not, as they pleased. I ran this game many times in many forms up until 1990 or so.
In college, I worked pretty seriously on a game based on the Vlad Taltos books of Steven Brust, around 1991-92. I was corresponding with Brust regularly, and I thought I might have a shot at working out a publishing deal. He ultimately decided to go with Steve Jackson Games, who managed a first draft of a GURPS Jhereg book but never took it any further. My version used the core Action Table system from Talislanta, and was honestly a pretty boring stat+skill+dice affair. Better than GURPS, but that's not saying much.
I worked on this one in college, mostly. I still think it has some potential. A traveling circus of acrobats, strongmen, magicians, and strange creatures always seemed like the ideal "adventuring party" to me. This design was strongly influenced by Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children in terms of style and fairy-tale qualities. It featured a map with fixed locations that the circus train traveled to each session. Places like The Lighthouse, The Village Under the Trees, and The Outskirts of the City. To move to the next stop, the circus had to feed the Dragon that powered the train. Before play, the players decided what the Dragon ate (dreams, lost hopes, wedding rings... murderers). I may go back to this one someday.
This was my Space Marine game, written for Fudge. It was the first design I finished. It used to be available free on the web (starting in 1997 I think) but the site is now gone. There were a few little bits that I liked about this one, especially the ultra quick chargen (using broad "training program" skills) and the nifty little gimmick that allowed for lots and lots of PC death.
Ah, Daredevils... we hardly knew ye. This design rapidly morphed into what would become Danger Patrol. Basically pulp action-adventure with low-level supers. It used the core Action Table system from Talislanta, modified a bit.
Talislanta 4th Edition
I got to write the fourth edition of one my favorite RPGs and then ended up publishing it, too. Working with Steve Sechi was a blast. Reading that game book today makes me cringe again and again, but it was well received and I am proud of it.
Clockworks from another dimension are taking over our world by replacing our leaders with clockwork doubles. You have to stop them. Or maybe you're just going insane. I also worked on a totally different game called "44" which was a kind of Sin City thing. One (or both) of them might be worth resurrecting some day.
Dead or Alive
You died out in the dust of the West, but you ain't gone. You're in Perdition, and the Great Beyond won't have ya. This was gonna be a kind of mystical/ghost/western redemption thing but it never really got off the ground. And years later I read Dust Devils and kinda lost my steam. Probably a dead horse.
Rainbow Six meets Call of Cthulhu. There are monsters in the world, and there is an elite special-forces unit that is sent to deal with them. Pretty hyper-realistic Tom Clancy kinda thing, with magic and demons. Years later I watched Buffy and discovered The Initiative, which is pretty similar. I still want to do a very tactical and gritty special-forces game (based heavily on SPEC OPS by William McRaven) and if I do one, it will probably be this. Laser-sharks be damned!
My modification of Puppetland to run a game about children magicians in a fairy-tale land.
A masive city of black minarets lit by a lake of fire. The Goalim: Wrapped from head to toe in black gauze and bound with silver wire. The Sualim: Giants with skins of bronze. The Jalim: Those who wander below. The I'Yalim: Bearers of the blade. The Rayalim: Servants of the God of Suffering.
You play either a Stranger (a human who can See Things and Doesn't Belong) or a Thing (a creature from imagination). You live in the Otherworld, trapped between real and make-believe. It's Tom Waits meets Blade Runner. TSOY would be a good fit, system-wise.
My take on a Matrix supplement for the Donjon system. All about "the enemy", "the dream" and the "the awakened." There are some really cool ideas in here that I am totally gonna steal for something else. It's written in this call/response style that I kinda dig, too.
Tales of Wudan
A kung-fu game that used rock, paper, scissors (or fist, palm, touch) as part of resolution (it used dice too). Playtested once. Lost the rules doc (written in a notebook and not on disk!) but I may re-invent the wheel on this one someday. It was fun in play. We really got into standing up and doing our "moves" when we did RPS.
A Sorcerer supplement that I'm taking my sweet-ass time with. It strips away the central metaphor in the game and replaces demons with real people. PCs are CIA operatives who manipulate others to get what they want. Now that Ron is doing Spione (which, you know, will ROCK) I'm less excited to finish it.
And, of course, Danger Patrol. Since I ran headlong into the Forge, development of DP has slowed to a crawl. But oh what a crawl it has been! I have learned so much and the game has been so vastly improved because of it. To give you an idea of how much it has improved, there is a folder in the depths of my computer (among the dozens -- literally -- of cast off DP designs) called "Danger Patrol d20." Shiver.