Thursday, August 16, 2012

[Q&A] Tim Kirk (Hearts & Souls, High Valor, etc.)

[19:00] <+Tim_Kirk> I'm Tim Kirk, of Silverlion Studious, who works in cooperation with Better Mousetrap Games. I write and produce the games myself. They help me sell them. I've designed two games so far completely my own
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[19:01] <+Tim_Kirk> Hearts & Souls, a rather unique superhero game, and High Valor, a dark ages fantasy rpg.  I also have written bits for Cartoon Action Hour, and the setting of Tribes of Mother Knight.
[19:01] <+Tim_Kirk> Night..not Knight..,.weee.
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[19:02] <+Tim_Kirk> So any questions? :D
[19:03] <+Iridium> Tribes of Mother Knight? =D
[19:03] <+JP> Hi Tim! How would you compare Hearts & Souls to the stable of other superhero RPGs on the market, with an eye for strengths and weaknesses?
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[19:03] <+Tim_Kirk> Tribes of Mother Night.
[19:04] <+Tim_Kirk> H&S is one of the earlier attempts to focus on a characters motivations, on making the game essentially be both narrative and keeping the player immersed in the characters personality.
[19:05] <+Tim_Kirk> Its strength is both the motivations (Drives) and how they relate to play, and the simplicity of the system.
[19:05] <+Iridium> So there's plenty of social roleplaying involved? ^^
[19:05] <+Tim_Kirk> Its weakness is in character generation, apparently telling people to "make it up." Only works for the new Margaret Weis Marvel game.
[19:06] <+Tim_Kirk> Yes. Lots of social play, lots of banter between heroes and villains, and the social dynamics around those things.
[19:06] <+JP> That is indeed a tough point, where the player creativity comes in, for any design. Thanks for the concise answer.
[19:07] <+Tim_Kirk> The idea was to focus on the character as a person, why they do what they do and make the sacrifices they choose. 2E will make some of that a bit clearer. I learned to explain things in more detail and to make it clear.
[19:08] <+Tim_Kirk> Its actually nice to see that other games are indeed jumping on the band to speak :D
[19:09] <+Iridium> That does sound good, Tim! ^^
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[19:09] <+Iridium> I'm glad to see that happening, I've always been a fan of social aspects of rpgs. =)
[19:09] <+Tim_Kirk> Thank you. I tried to make things clear, but even the best writers flub things when they've never done them before.
[19:10] <~Dan> What sorts of stats do Hearts & Souls characters have?
[19:10] <+Tim_Kirk> I love social stuff. The reasons why someone chooses to do something, and how they choose to do it are very important and get overlooked.
[19:10] <+Iridium> Absolutely right, Tim. =)
[19:10] <+Tim_Kirk> It uses a fairly standard set, I do that mostly to give people a common baseline. I've seen it hard to decide "what trait do I use?" in some systems.
[19:11] <~Dan> What about skills?
[19:12] <+Tim_Kirk> So  1e had Might  Deftness Resilience, Brains Prowess and Resolve.
[19:12] <+JP> I find that in play the most interesting part of H&S is stress. I'd like to hear what Tim thinks about that, given its such a complex part of the game. Once he is done with skills anyway :)
[19:12] <+Tim_Kirk> To simplify that in 2E I've clarified them a bit to Might, Agility, Toughness, Intellect, Knowledge, and Willpower
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[19:12] <+Tim_Kirk> Since that's what they mean.
[19:13] <+Tim_Kirk> Skills are covered under Agility (for skills related to that trait) and Knowledge.
[19:13] <+Tim_Kirk> Since superhero characters tend to be good at anything as the story dictates, so did I made it easier in the right circumstances for a hero to know and/or be able to do something
[19:14] <~Dan> What's the scale, and does it have a hard cap?
[19:14] <+Tim_Kirk> After all Batman is good at everything, we don't need a big list of skills to show that. We just show he has "Agility Spectacular" and Knowledge: Superhuman
[19:15] <+Tim_Kirk> Yes. It does. Albeit the hard cap exceeds most games by a bit. The hard cap is "Cosmic" level abilities. Able to do things and move along cosmic powers.
[19:16] <+Tim_Kirk> There are essentially a Scale and Rank system for all  capabilities in the game, including powers/devices.
[19:16] <~Dan> What's the core mechanic?
[19:16] <+Tim_Kirk> Scales are: Humans, Superhuman, Cosmic in 1E, in 2E in order to facilitate broader play I've added Low and Planetary
[19:17] <+Tim_Kirk> The core mechanic is roll a number of dice determined by your rank, and using the dice type determined by your scale.
[19:18] <+Tim_Kirk> As for Stress, since I don't want to forget that. Stress determines all "bad stuff' in the game. Its very abstract, at the same time it allows for a very spevific model of play.
[19:18] <+Tim_Kirk> A hero has a fight with his girlfriend--stress, he gets shot at but managed to dodge--stress, eventually the stress stacks up and he suffers  for it, as it all becomes what 2E calls "Fallout" the "I'm to tired to dodge anymore, and take the bullet in the shoulder" rules.
[19:19] <+Tim_Kirk> The game assumes a hero succeeds, until s/he is stressed out--its just how much stress will he or she suffer until then?
[19:19] <~Dan> Is rank attribute+skill?
[19:20] <+JP> Stress has some neat features though, IIRC, as in you can make a reroll taking one stress, and when it gets triggered is chosen not set. Correct me if I'm making any mistakes here.
[19:20] <+Tim_Kirk> For some heroes they take stress automatically from certain  things (like glowing alien rocks.)
[19:20] <+Tim_Kirk> Rank is determined by the appropriate value a player sets in char gen. No adding. Just "X rank" determines how many dice you roll.
[19:21] <+Tim_Kirk> there are three ranks: Average/Ordinary; Exceptional, and Spectacular.
[19:21] <+Tim_Kirk> Each rank represents 1 die rolled, and the best die is taken for success.
[19:22] <+Tim_Kirk> So someone with Exceptional Human might--rolls 2d6 and takes the best one (Exceptional=2 dice Human: 1d6, in 2E)
[19:22] <~Dan> Hmmm... Okay, I misread your statement about skills earlier. I follow you now. But how do you model someone like Hawkeye, who's an astounding sharpshooter but isn't correspondingly agile?
[19:22] <+Tim_Kirk> Having higher traits means better chances to not suffer stress, and succeede.
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[19:23] <+JP> A nice side effect of such a rolling system that I noted during playtest is that engaging contests can occur across scales. Meaning my superhuman superhero can battle a cosmic power in a fun way.
[19:23] <+Tim_Kirk> Hawkeye is pretty agile, but not an olympic gymnast, but in cases where there is an obvious excessive ability--you write it up as a power. A super archer like Hawkey would have a "Super Skill: Archery" type ability.
[19:23] <+Tim_Kirk> The important stuff--Drive and stress interact, which is what JP is saying.
[19:24] <~Dan> Are powers free-form, then?
[19:24] <+Tim_Kirk> One can push themselves to succeed, for a small price now (Stress) which means they will pay later.
[19:25] <+Tim_Kirk> I once played in another (we'll leave it unnamed) superhero game where the characters managed to rescue a little girl from an on rushing train. I know at my heart that isn't how superhero games should work, but the game didn't teach the GM any better than "rules mean absolute values."
[19:26] <+Tim_Kirk> So I went with something freer. And yes that means free form powers, using plain english you describe what a power does, and then give it a rank and a scale. Powers can't do more than cause stress anyway (1 stress in 1E, I'm still testing 2E to see if we can open that up a little.)
[19:27] <+Tim_Kirk> Thinks like pushing allow even minor powers to mean something in play against really powerful forces from time to time.
[19:28] <+Tim_Kirk> (A bias perhaps in 2E I will make plain, is that the Editor/GM should be rooting for the heroes like a comic book reader. Even if they struggle, and suffer, that's all to make the success a bit more exciting and fun.)
[19:29] <~Dan> Powers can only cause 1 point of stress?
[19:29] <+Tim_Kirk> Yes. The trick is not to think of Stress as damage. They're not. Stress is the "NEAR hit" that blew up the concrete next to you." not and actual hit.
[19:30] <+Tim_Kirk> An actual hit comes when stress is cashed in--and that, can be very very bad, depending on how much stress is cashed in at a time.
[19:30] <~Dan> So... What difference does it make what you're using to attack?
[19:30] <+Tim_Kirk> The player or the GM can cash it in, and often its wiser to let the player do it, because it slowly makes things worse as well, as they start stacking up a lot of small things.
[19:31] <+Tim_Kirk> The fallout.
[19:32] <+Tim_Kirk> The fallout is the real damage, in the end. Plus its harder to avoid/defend against more powerful attacks, making Fallout all the more likely to come sooner (so the stress is cashed in faster, because of its potential severity.)
[19:33] <+Tim_Kirk> Think of it like this. I shoot an airsoft gun at you, you dodge. You are annoyed but not really stressed by it beyond a tiny annoyance. I get a powerful pellet gun and that can hurt (and in the right hands kill.)
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[19:33] <+Tim_Kirk> You are going to try harder. But if you fail, it will hurt more.
[19:33] <~Dan> Sorry, don't mean to be monopolizing the conversation. Anyone else have any questions?
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[19:34] <+Tim_Kirk> You can also ask about High Valor or upcoming things I'm working on :)
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[19:35] <~Dan> What's Tribes of Mother Night?
[19:37] <+Tim_Kirk> It was a setting I wrote for a "generic esh" system written by Almafeta. Its a fantasy setting which deals with prejudice, religious strife, and how that works in a world where there is a fantasy god, who DOES indeed enforce his views (somewhat.)
[19:37] <~Dan> Sounds dangerous. ;)
[19:38] <+Tim_Kirk> It was, its a solid setting, which I plan to expand on and rewrite, and merge it with another rule set--something a bit more optimal for it than "generic"
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[19:39] <+Tim_Kirk> I'm also working on Derelict Delvers--which started out life very much like JA's Huks & Horrors, and I learned I prefer more Space Opera/Pulp to D&D like materials and it veered into its own very classic sci fi game.
[19:40] <~Dan> What sort of system will that have?
[19:40] <~Dan> (Howdy, Clash!)
[19:40] <+flyingmice> Hi guys!
[19:40] <+flyingmice> was busy and late! Sorry!
[19:41] <+flyingmice> Why did you change it, Tim?
[19:41] <+flyingmice> (Not that I am complaining...)
[19:41] <+Tim_Kirk> Derelict Delvers has a fast moving little D6 using system, which ties a characters approach to solving a problem, to their skills.
[19:41] <+Tim_Kirk> Its vaugely reminiscint of High Valor, but it spins itself very quickly into its own thing.
[19:42] <+Tim_Kirk> Because I learned that while I enjoy old school systems, there are better people to me to write most of them. Even my D&D Homage Ogres & Oubliettes will be just that "How Tim thinks D&D would have gone if he wrote it.." rather than an actual Old School game.
[19:43] <+Tim_Kirk> Also because I really wanted something which flowed more like early (now called Space opera, or pulp ) science fiction stories. Not quite as direct to radio/movie serials, but to literary forms, where the solution to the problem involves often: quick thinking, a bit of moral quandry, action, and science!
[19:44] <~Dan> So what is the setting like?
[19:44] <+Tim_Kirk> It still has a bit of the Exploration/Recovery vibe that D&D has, but its very much its own thing. Inspired by things like Space Viking.
[19:45] <+Tim_Kirk> The setting is implied in Derelict Delvers (instead of explicit like High Valor)
[19:45] <+Tim_Kirk> but it deals with a world that Earth is unknown (due to the age of the galaxy) and the Ancients were great and terrible beings that did many mad, crazy, things when they existed and left a lot of that behind when they "left" the universe.
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[19:46] <~Dan> Howdy, Rallan!
[19:47] <+Tim_Kirk> It is a galaxy filled with numerous alien races, an organization dedicated to exploration/discovery and recovery called the ARCHIVE, and numerous factions vying for power over the universe, against them. From Stellar barbarians, the Machine Empire, and the like.
[19:48] <+Tim_Kirk> I have cover art I can share...a moment
[19:48] <~Dan> Oh, good!
[19:49] <~Dan> (Quick aside: #rpgnet2 is open as usual to continue general chat.)
[19:50] <+Tim_Kirk>
[19:50] <+flyingmice> Hiya Rallan!
[19:52] <~Dan> Very nice!
[19:52] <+flyingmice> What are the races like?
[19:52] <~Dan> So it's 1930s sci-fi?
[19:52] <+flyingmice> Or rather aliens?
[19:52] <+Tim_Kirk> Its from 1920+ actually
[19:53] <+flyingmice> What's the difference?
[19:53] <+Tim_Kirk> There are dones of aliens, the system has a build it yourself mechanic using three traits to make your alien PC. Aliens are mostly humanoid but can be anything...
[19:54] <+Tim_Kirk> The difference is I'm not focusing on any one age of SF, but on the general SF scope of the space exploration age. The 20's had different science (which I'm not addressing, but not all that different in some ways.)
[19:54] <+Tim_Kirk> There is just an enthusiasm for exploration I want to have in the game, and for solving problems with science, not just ray guns.
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[19:55] <+Tim_Kirk> Also early on their were a lot of godlike aliens, that tended to fade as we told stories (Star Trek revitalized the god-like a bit...)
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[19:57] <+flyingmice> You mean the ancients in DD?
[19:57] <+flyingmice> Being godlike, I mean...
[19:57] <+Tim_Kirk> Yeah, among others. Its a common SF trope, and it goes back a ways.
[19:58] <+Tim_Kirk> Precursers, Ancients, First Ones, Old Ones, and so on.
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[19:59] <~Dan> Howdy, Than!
[19:59] <&Thanaeon> Hi.
[20:00] <&Thanaeon> You know what's fun? Having a flu and having slept at the absolute maximum five hours during the last two days.
[20:00] <&Thanaeon> Not that I'd know anything about that, mind you...
[20:00] <~Dan> (Q&A in progress -- #rpgnet2 is open for general chat. :) )
[20:00] <&Thanaeon> Sorry.
[20:00] <+Tim_Kirk> Poor Than, anyway :D
[20:01] <+flyingmice> So what are the PCs like in DD? What do they do?
[20:02] <~Dan> They delve, silly!
[20:03] <+flyingmice> How does one delve derelicts? :D
[20:05] <+Tim_Kirk> Lots of things, they discover and explore. They make old/alien/Ancienct salvage safe to be recovered, they rescue aliens in distress, they fight the Machine Empire, they activate Ancients devices to see what they do.
[20:05] <+Tim_Kirk> In fact, I'm tempted to make their motto: Poke it with a stick!
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[20:06] <+Tim_Kirk> They're the troubleshooters of ARCHIVE, and take jobs to help furthur knowledge, of the galaxy.
[20:06] <+flyingmice> Cool!
[20:06] <+Tim_Kirk> They fly fusion powered Hyper-Rockets!
[20:07] <+Tim_Kirk> They shoot things, and sometimes take stuff--but that's less common than all the rest.
[20:07] <+flyingmice> So they are part of an organization, not just rattling around loose in the galaxy.\
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[20:08] <+Tim_Kirk> Indeed. The ARCHIVE is a means to rattle around the galaxy, they invest in training, gear, and rocketry.
[20:08] <~Dan> Howdy, Wondy!
[20:09] <+WonderRat> Howdy, Dan
[20:14] <+Tim_Kirk> Any other questions?
[20:15] <+flyingmice> What else do you have lined up?
[20:15] <~Dan> What did you write for Cartoon Action Hour?
[20:16] <+Tim_Kirk> I wrote bits for the Warriors of Iconia Setting, I created Strikeforce Freedom, which Cyncthia expanded on a great deal for 2E.
[20:17] <+Tim_Kirk> I've got H&S2E, Mourngyre: Kingdoms of Sorrow, Cold Chrome Knights, E.o.N: Empire of Night, Vast Frontiers, and a few dozen others in various states of production. I'm just slow, and all by myself.
[20:18] <+flyingmice> Are you ever going to rerelease Ribes of Mother Night? :D
[20:18] <+flyingmice> Tribes
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[20:19] <+Tim_Kirk> Yes. I've got that one in the works as well.
[20:19] <+Tim_Kirk> I've just been working on a system to do the fencing well. (A system I'll use for my two games which deal with fencing/sword fighting of that sort.)
[20:19] <+flyingmice> What next in the pipeline after Derelict Delvers?
[20:20] <+Tim_Kirk> EON, unless something changes.
[20:20] <+flyingmice> Or ias it less organixed than I am implying? :D
[20:21] <+Tim_Kirk> I try and be very organized. I've got notebooks full of scheduling, it doesn't always help--as life throws far too many curveballs.
[20:23] <+flyingmice> What is Vast Fronties about?
[20:23] <~Dan> Can you describe those games you listed off?
[20:23] <+flyingmice> Yes!
[20:23] <+Tim_Kirk> My current schedule is H&S2E, EON, Mourngyre,  Vast Fronteirs, Cold Chrome Knights, Tribes of Mother Night, un-named space opera wuxia game, ACE (full version), The Bleak.
[20:23] <+flyingmice> Presumably DD gets in there somewhere?
[20:24] <+Tim_Kirk> EON is a dark space opera game, where the Eschaton Stigmata opened, a bleeding hole in space and unleashed demons. They quckly took down most of the civilised worlds, and its up to the rebels of the Redeeming Dawn to fight back.
[20:25] <~Dan> So sort of post-apocalypse space opera?
[20:26] <+Tim_Kirk> Mourngyre is dark fantasy setting, set around the Lord of Whispers, whose magics changed the world, and unleashed horrors on the world, very much not vanilla fantasy, firearms, sabers, monsters. Human centric with one or two "fantasy" races (Husks: Golem like constructs who've accidently gained a soul and freedom.)
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[20:27] <+Tim_Kirk> Dan: If you mean it in the same sense as Eden Studios Armageddon? Then Yes.
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[20:27] <~Dan> Howdy, Squide!
[20:27] <+Tim_Kirk> Vast Fronteirs is the first game using the ACE rules, a card powered mecha action RPG. Vast Fronteirs will have the basic rules and cover small scale mecha in a sci fi space western setting.
[20:28] <+flyingmice> Hiya Squiddly!
[20:28] <+flyingmice> I'm sure a bunch of mecha fanboys will love that!
[20:28] <+Tim_Kirk> Where the War of Sovereingty left corporations empowered on Earth, and most of those who fought against them trying to stay away from a new form of tyranny under corporate law.
[20:28] <+flyingmice> :D
[20:28] <&Le_Squide> Neat.
[20:30] <+Tim_Kirk> Cold Chrome Knights, is a Neo Cyberpunk game where a computer that believed itself King Arthur returned demanded Knights to serve it. People don't know if it unleashed a virus, or if the people just needed hope, and so took up the roles of modern knights aginast the semi-feudal Orbital Kings.
[20:30] <+Tim_Kirk> No magic but the magic of knowledge and hacking-just mundane science but a bit of an impetus behind it.
[20:30] <+flyingmice> Is that kind of Cyberpunk?
[20:31] <+Tim_Kirk> Yes. Its inspired by the classic cyberpunk i've enjoyed, where while people are out for a buck, some of them have positive motives to fight against what the corporations do.
[20:32] <+Tim_Kirk> Tribes we covered. The wuxia game "Heroes of the Jewelled River" until I get a better name is about wuxia heroes fighting the good fight in classic wuxia sense in a galaxy spanning empire reminiscint of ancient China.
[20:33] <+Tim_Kirk> The Bleak is aka "The Bleak Long Last Crawl into Twilight" a post cthulhu apocalypse game.
[20:34] <+Tim_Kirk> I've a lot of writing to do. Not counting "side projects"
[20:34] <+flyingmice> Oooh! Are Cthulhu & Co. gone?
[20:34] <+Tim_Kirk> and yes Clash, I'm aiming to complete DD shortly after H&S2E
[20:34] <&Thanaeon> That's a lotta games.
[20:34] <+flyingmice> :D
[20:35] <+Tim_Kirk> It is, but I'm hoping after I'm moved, I'll get back to schedule.
[20:36] <+Tim_Kirk> A big impedinement for my games is getting art, I can A) afford and  b) fits the settings.
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[20:36] <+flyingmice> Have you thought of going the kickstarter route for the art?
[20:36] <+flyingmice> Hi J!
[20:36] <+WonderRat> Howdy, JA
[20:36] <+J_Arcane> Hi flyingmice !
[20:37] <+Tim_Kirk> I have, but I'm trying to find  some good rewards, as well as getting the game written so I know where to set my goals.
[20:40] * +flyingmice nods
[20:41] <+Tim_Kirk> It gets bad when you need like 1000 peices of art.. *L*
[20:41] <+flyingmice> What game needs that many?
[20:42] <+Tim_Kirk> No single game. Just combined.
[20:42] <+flyingmice> There should be multiple kickstarters for multiple games... :P
[20:42] <~Dan> You could always do what Nathaniel Torson did with Barbarians of the Aftermath and just go nuts with public domain art.
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[20:43] <+flyingmice> THat only works where there is a lot of of PD art on your subject, Dan.
[20:43] <+Tim_Kirk> Yeah, that's possible, but I'm very very particular. Its why High Valor has so few peices.
[20:43] <+Tim_Kirk> YEt those peices are perfect for what I wanted.
[20:45] <+flyingmice> And that is a fantasy game...
[20:46] <+Tim_Kirk> Yeah. H&S needs more, and its all in full color this time.
[20:47] <+Tim_Kirk> (I'm getting hungry for dinner....:D)
[20:48] <~Dan> (Want to call a stop so that you can go eat? :) )
[20:48] <+Tim_Kirk> Yeah, I think that's good. I've monopolized the chat for a while. :D
[20:49] <~Dan> Okay! Thanks for taking the time to tell us about your games, Tim!
[20:49] <+Tim_Kirk> Anytime. I'm a babbler at heart.

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