Creating Situation: Log, Map, & Spyglass

Monday, December 31, 2007

Here's the situation creation method for Codename: VALVE. The main action of the game concerns sailing the Wild Blue, exploring new places, getting into trouble, and winnning plunder. To create a situation, the players use the ship's log, their maps of the Wild, and a spyglass.

The Log
First, the Captain consults the ship's log. It's printed in the book, with empty spaces after each entry for you to write some details (yes, you're supposed to write in the game book! gasp!). A log entry will briefly describe a starting circumstance for the ship and crew, like, "Crowsday, 39th of Elm. Crew sick, seeing visions. Must find a spirit healer soon." Or, "Fresh shot and powder and the guns new polished, crew spoiling for a fight."

The Map
Then, the crew picks one of the map sheets. These are navigation charts that depict a group of flying islands, with drawings of terrain and places on them, along with little notes and names for things, in the classic Tony Dowler style. Sometimes an island will be very low altitude and partially submerged in the heavyside layer.

The crew and Captain together decide where to go on the map. You're like, "We sail for the town of Silver Fall, here by the big waterfall that's going off the edge." There might be a note about Silver Fall written on the map ("Avoid the people of the Accord"). You can also check the dispatches in the book about Silver Fall. The dispatches are the scouting reports of Imperial assessors, written as brief first-hand accounts -- just enough to get your imagination going.

The crew starts out with three of the seventeen maps. More maps can be found as part of game play.

The Spyglass
Finally, someone has the spyglass. As you sail in, the person with the spyglass can look and see things. They can invent details of the place by calling out what they see: "It looks like the towers are burning!" Or they can solicit details from the other players by asking a question: "Are there supposed to be fires up in those skinny towers?" Any of the crew can respond. You can respond to a declaration with support ("On fire? The place must have been attacked by the Empire!") or with doubt, "Nah, it's probably not on fire. Those are lights to help ships land." Crew can also ask leading questions like, "Do you see any blue smoke?" or "Can you tell if the festival flags are flying yet?"

Crew can ask the person with the spyglass to check again, if anyone is obviously unhappy with what is seen. "No, that couldn't be! Check again." The person with the spyglass may pass the glass to someone else with, "Well, take a look for yourself." A crew member may also take the spyglass with, "Let me see that."

Once everyone has had the spyglass (or passed on the opportunity to have it) then you've seen all you're going to see. The Captain should note spyglass details in the ship's log.

Whenever the ship moves to a new place on the map, you check for Dangers and Opportunities. This is the "wandering monster" element of the game, which puts pressure on the crew to take their current loot and go home. They can always choose to press their luck and hunt for more loot, risking an encounter with an Imperial hunter or other calamity.

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Blogger Kevin says:  

Is there going to be some kind of currency so that those people who really want something ("I tell you, those towers ARE on fire!") can still get it done?

Or, what if you have a player who insists on something different? Can you leave the truthiness of a statement hanging?

Blogger John Harper says:  

No currency, I don't think. Just some improv techniques to manage that stuff.

And yeah, you can leave truthiness vague, to be discovered later.

(BTW, I just caught up on your blog. I love the "Cunningham Effect." That is so Pat. Cracked me up.)

Blogger Unknown says:  

Very nice! I'd love to see this in action.

Blogger Paul Tevis says:  

I am, unsurprisingly, intrigued.

Blogger Kevin says:  

Don't get me wrong, it sounds remarkably cool, but (since you know what I mean here) you just KNOW someone is going to show the Cunningham Effect and say, "No, I tell you those towers ARE on fire!"

As long as you remember "that guy", I know you'll handle it. Or maybe just put a note in the intro that says "Not Suggested for Players with Cunninghamitis" or something similar.

Blogger Philip says:  

Is that "Abdul" Pat that he's talking about? (You'd think by now I'd remember what that Pat's last name was.)

These ideas sound very cool. I'm waiting patiently to hear more about Codename: VALVE.

Blogger Kevin says:  

That is "Abdul" Pat, for sure. That's "dour" Abdul, because the description says they're dour and moody.. BOOM, character concept done!

Blogger Jonathan Walton says:  

You cagey game designers and your codenames.

Sounds pretty awesome, John, especially the maps. You know how much I love maps...

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