Sunday, August 19, 2012

[Q&A] Toph Marshall and Brad Murray (VSCA -- Diaspora, Deluge, Hollowpoint)

[19:59] <+VSCA-Brad> Well I'll set us up, I guess! Toph and I are the authors of Hollowpoint, a triple-ENnie nominee this year. It's a one-shot action game based on _100 Bullets_. We also worked with our close friends, Bryon Kerr and Tim Dyke on Diaspora, which is probably already pretty well known.
[19:59] <+flyingmice> Hi CW!
[19:59] <+VSCA-Brad> Being FATE and all.
[19:59] <+CWMarshall> Hi!
[20:00] <+VSCA-Brad> We're both very part time designers, holding down exciting and substantial day-jobs.
[20:00] <+Silverlion> Fry cook? :D
[20:00] <+Silverlion> Substantial for a game designer?
[20:00] <+deirdre> Hey, I got an expensive culinary degree to operate that fryer. :o
[20:00] <+VSCA-Brad> I'm a systems engineer for a Major International Arms Dealer and Toph is a professor of Classics and Near-Eastern Religion (did I get that right, Toph?)
[20:01] <+CWMarshall> Yes -- (quick correction; Byron, not Bryon).I teach Greek poetry at the University of British Columbia
[20:01] <+Drakkar> neat
[20:01] <~Dan> (I misread that as "Geek poetry" at first.)
[20:01] <+Silverlion> Awesome.
[20:01] <+flyingmice> I misread it as Greek Pottery...
[20:01] <+CWMarshall> Which is funny, because when we were teenagers, Brad wanted to be an international arms dealer, and I wanted to be a Greek archaeologist
[20:01] <+Silverlion> Is that a legal arms dealer? :D
[20:02] <+Silverlion> Hah.
[20:02] <+VSCA-Brad> As we're not really "in" the game design community in many ways -- we're kind of outsider dilletantes -- we tend to make games that we like to play on the assumption that there must be someone else out there who also likes it. So far we've been right. :D
[20:02] <+CWMarshall> And we've been lucky in that
[20:02] <+flyingmice> Damn right there!
[20:02] <+ttmrichter> OK, finally awake.
[20:02] <+Silverlion> Hrms. That seems to have a qualifier that there are people in the community who can't write because they're too close to the problem?
[20:03] <+CWMarshall> SO far, each of the main VSCA products has been scratching a different itch.
[20:03] <+Silverlion> A good thing in general.
[20:03] <+puke> Does that mean that the general idea of a genericised "VSCA house FATE" is off the table?
[20:03] <+VSCA-Brad> Silverlion: I just don't know how other people do what they do. I have no criticism of any of them. I just know what I do. :D
[20:04] <+VSCA-Brad> puke: For myself I'm pretty much done with FATE. It's kind of saturated right now and it's soooo easy to hack your own variant.
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[20:05] <+Silverlion> I'm a big fan of designing a system for optimal genre/itch scratching use..
[20:05] <+VSCA-Brad> I like it as a scaffold to start new ganes on, but I'm enjoying the divergences more than the adherences. There's plenty I will steal though.
[20:05] <+puke> Speaking of being done with it -- not that I'm stalking you -- but I have read that you take some issue with the idea of Compells.
[20:05] <+CWMarshall> Puke: Honestly, I don't think anything is off the table, though. Enough enthusiasm for a product is a great motivator. But it requires someone to see the value in investing time in that.
[20:05] <+CWMarshall> Do we take issue with compels?
[20:05] <+VSCA-Brad> puke: I've always had a problem with compels but Ryan Macklin gave me some awesome advice that got me over it. Or let me sculpt them to my preferences.
[20:06] <+puke> Something about detracting from player agency, which is a view I tend to share.
[20:06] <+puke> the Ryan Macklin perspective suggested using them as a way the Environment reacts to a Character, rather than telling the character what to do.
[20:06] <+VSCA-Brad> puke: that's when they tend to suck (though the fact that the player has a choice offsets that) for me.
[20:06] <+Silverlion> Interesting. See I've always been more interested in player character agency through the player.
[20:06] <+puke> But how would you implement that against ideas like your "Out of Ammo" aspect?
[20:07] <+VSCA-Brad> puke: yes, and and I like that a lot.
[20:07] <+puke> And also, how do player vs player compels work in such a condition?
[20:07] <+VSCA-Brad> Well Out of Ammo is really designed for a wargame-context game to just force a missed turn. Pure mechanism with obvious narrative.
[20:07] <+VSCA-Brad> I let players worry about player versus player compels. They can work it out.
[20:07] <+CWMarshall> I really like the out-of-ammo rule. It was a way to clean up tracking of fiddly bits --
[20:08] <+CWMarshall> --no need to count ammo. You reload for a turn once someone pays you to do so.
[20:08] <+puke> Oh, you dont use out-of-ammo in regular RPG combat?
[20:08] <+Silverlion> So how does the design of Hollowpoint (in general choices) differ from the design of Diaspora? Not system specific but approach?
[20:08] <+VSCA-Brad> Yes! It's very much more a way to leverage aspects to avoid bookkeeping than a general purpose aspect. It still can be used that way.
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[20:08] <+boulet> hi
[20:08] <+CWMarshall> Hi Boulet.
[20:08] <~Dan> Howdy, boulet!
[20:08] <+flyingmice> Hi Franck!
[20:08] <+VSCA-Brad> Well Hollowpoint is designed to run a complete story in one session and be driven forward by character death and melodrama. So it's a different pace and objective altogether.
[20:08] <+boulet> Has it started already
[20:08] <+boulet> ?
[20:09] <~Dan> Actually, I'd like to know about the actual Hollowpoint system.
[20:09] <+Silverlion> Yeah.
[20:09] <+VSCA-Brad> I started already, boulet!
[20:09] * +boulet has his answer
[20:09] <+VSCA-Brad> You want to talk about the system, Toph?
[20:09] <+CWMarshall> Sure...
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[20:10] <+CWMarshall> Hollowpoint is geared towards replicating some of the stuff we were reading/watching in violence action films and comics.
[20:10] <+CWMarshall> It uses a dice pool system, that invites the players to narrate the results based on the dice
[20:10] <+CWMarshall> As a result, for each round, players spill dice on the table, look at their sets, and that dictates how the combat plays out.
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[20:11] <~Dan> Something like ORE?
[20:11] <+CWMarshall> A Wide set (say, six twos) will go first, but uses up all your dice -- that might be jumping out and emptying your magazine, before there's a real target...
[20:11] <+VSCA-Brad> In that respect it's related to ORE -- the story of a combat round is discovered from the dice, yes.
[20:11] <+CWMarshall> Yes.
[20:11] <+VSCA-Brad> But it's certainly not a guy-vs-guy combat simulation. The whole scene is resolved piece by piece from the dice.
[20:12] <~Dan> Hmm. I hope the data's easier to extract than it is in ORE.
[20:12] <+Silverlion> What dice does it use?
[20:12] <+VSCA-Brad> I think it's quite a bit easier though I find ORE pretty easy. Just d6s and lots of them.
[20:12] <+CWMarshall> I've played the fame with ten- and eleven-year olds. They find the combat pretty automatic to parse.
[20:12] <+CWMarshall> You line up sets and just go in sequence.
[20:13] <+puke> How do you properly frame the mood when introducing new folks to Hollowpoint?  I found that it was hard to get people to think "big" and "awesome" without going totally overboard into "crazy silly"
[20:13] <+VSCA-Brad> Characters don't have skills so much as preferred methods. So you won't have a firearms skill, but you have KILL and TERRORIZE and can narrate firearms into them if you prefer.
[20:13] <+GoldenH> boom
[20:13] <+VSCA-Brad> puke: well that's a hard problem. Because it's so easy to skin, a lot of people move into gonzo fast. If you stick with the secret agents in a criminal organization theme it stays very gritty.
[20:14] <+VSCA-Brad> As soon as you add laser cats it's your own fault.
[20:14] <+CWMarshall> (Brad, always hating on the laser cats)
[20:14] <+flyingmice> I've found the laser cats to be a general rule...
[20:14] <+VSCA-Brad> That and water vehicle skills
[20:14] <+CWMarshall> : )
[20:14] <+puke> even in the secret agent setting, I had players crashing through 22nd story windows in ultralights.
[20:14] <~Dan> Is Hollowpoint prety abstract, then?
[20:15] <+puke> which was great, dont get me wrong.
[20:15] <+Silverlion> How does the game work for genres other than action movie/drama
[20:15] <+VSCA-Brad> Dan: insofar as it is not a physics simulation at all, yes.
[20:15] <+VSCA-Brad> But it drives story in pretty concrete directions.
[20:15] <+CWMarshall> Hollowpoint encourages character death. PCs die and get replaced.  That provides some genre constraints right there.
[20:16] <+CWMarshall> It becomes about the mission, and a good character death can offer real rewards to players, beyond just losing your last hit point.
[20:16] <+VSCA-Brad> Silverlion: My rule for skins is simple: it's about bad people working in a team on a mission. It will do most anything within that context. It helps if the theme suits a little melodrama, comic book turns, like "the boss is actually your son!"
[20:17] <+VSCA-Brad> One of the best play reports I read was a Skyrim skin.
[20:17] <+Drakkar> hahaha
[20:17] <+Drakkar> brilliant
[20:17] <~Dan> (I'm curious about that new game you mentioned, Brad, but we should probably hold off on that until folks are done discussing your current games, I think.)
[20:17] <+Drakkar> your arrival actually made me want to try it in deluge incidentally
[20:18] <+CWMarshall> It's fun the way that works. One of the best Diaspora games was someone playing The Dark Tower with it. It's fun when people instantly see something that adds depth like that.
[20:18] <+Drakkar> hahaha
[20:18] <+CWMarshall> (best = "in a play test report that we got told about"
[20:18] <+Drakkar> yess
[20:18] <+puke> Diaspora is a brilliant paring down of FATE to some of its barest essentials, I think it really informed some of the "FATE Core" stuff.
[20:19] <+VSCA-Brad> Thanks Drakkar! I'm really pleased with Deluge. It was a fast and dirty experiment but I think it has a lot to say about systemless design.
[20:19] <+Drakkar> yeah definitely
[20:19] <+CWMarshall> Do you want to talk about that, Brad?
[20:19] <+puke> What would have been done differently if you guys had made it now, having the benefit of having seen what other Devs are doing with the game system?
[20:19] <+VSCA-Brad> puke: thank you! The design methodology was basically "everyone ref one game of Spirit of the Century and then we'll make a game based on what rules we actually used"
[20:20] <+VSCA-Brad> "Actually remembered" might be closer to the truth.
[20:20] <+flyingmice> Haha!
[20:20] <+VSCA-Brad> I'd trim about 20,000 words off it if I wrote it today. Otherwise no change.
[20:20] <+VSCA-Brad> It still plays exactly into my comfort zone.
[20:20] <~Dan> Does Diaspora address the disconnect between melee damage and strength in SotC?
[20:20] <+VSCA-Brad> No.
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[20:21] <+puke> Bulldogs does, but it gets crazy at high Might values.
[20:21] <+CWMarshall> Puke: it's interesting, because many of the other devs of FATE aren't following Diaspora. 60 pages of stunts (for example) are still there filling out the books (there's 20000 words, Brad), and I really feel the paring down is valuable. I'd like to see more devs use it!
[20:21] <+VSCA-Brad> We decided early that there was no point in trying to make FATE do physics simulation when it's clearly a story element simulator.
[20:21] <+VSCA-Brad> People love shopping lists. Not me though.
[20:22] <~Dan> Brad: Really? I think Strands of FATE does a pretty good job of simulation.
[20:22] <+VSCA-Brad> Of course we still did some phys sim because, hey, we're emulating Traveller after all.
[20:22] <+CWMarshall> On physics vs. story, we can talk about the starship design system.
[20:22] <+VSCA-Brad> I think it does too.
[20:22] <+puke> So, how far on the back burner is Diamondback?
[20:23] <+VSCA-Brad> Far enough back that I don't really know what it is yet. I think Toph has a better handle on it than I do.
[20:23] <+Drakkar> oh!
[20:23] <+CWMarshall> Ha ha ha. It's simmering right there in plain sight. Part of it is wondering what it should do.  I don't want more rules -- I really like the one book for a game idea. But there's clearly stuff that could be added. What would you like to see in it?
[20:23] <+Drakkar> that reminds me
[20:24] <~Dan> Is Diamondback the game you mentioned earlier today, Brad?
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[20:24] <+Drakkar> the system generator in diaspora was very cool
[20:24] <+puke> The mecha bits are fascinating, but I'm not sure how different it needs to be from starship and wargame combat?
[20:24] <+Drakkar> i have friends who use it for pretty much anything
[20:24] <+VSCA-Brad> Dan: no, I haven't mentioned Diamondback. I am dying to write on it but I think it's really Toph's baby.
[20:24] <+CWMarshall> Exactly, puke.
[20:24] <+puke> I liked some of the "canned setting" ideas, stating up stations and whatnot.
[20:24] <+Drakkar> yeah
[20:25] <+puke> Honestly, its been some time since I browsed the skunkworks.
[20:25] <+CWMarshall> duly noted.
[20:25] <+VSCA-Brad> The station will be an essential core for sure, which is why wedging mecha into it was starting to feel forced.
[20:26] <+VSCA-Brad> (now I'm thinking about zero-g space station mecha though….)
[20:26] <~Dan> So what is Diamonback?
[20:26] <+puke> I tend to like things that can be ripped apart and played with, which is why Diaspora and Hollowpoint scratch my itches so well.  More modular components for it would certainly be fun toys.
[20:26] <+CWMarshall> Diamondback is one of the possible names for a proposed Diaspora supplement, Dan.
[20:26] <+VSCA-Brad> Dan: I think it's safest to say at this point that it's a codename for the first Diaspora supplement. I wouldn't want to pin much more on it.
[20:27] <~Dan> Ah. Understood.
[20:27] <+Drakkar> Project Diamondback
[20:27] <+Drakkar> hohoho
[20:27] <+VSCA-Brad> puke: I cannot imagine writing a game that didn't scratch that itch because it's all I want in a game.
[20:27] <+Silverlion> If it has a girl in pink clothes who is in love with Captain America..well
[20:28] <+VSCA-Brad> I guarantee you'll be safe from that. :D
[20:28] <+Kenshiro> so no Q&A or was it earlier?
[20:28] <+VSCA-Brad> Q and we'll A!
[20:28] <~Dan> It's going on now!
[20:28] <+nick3> the internets wants to know why !
[20:28] <+CWMarshall> I'll always A.
[20:29] <+Gemini> What's the minimum number of people you've played Diaspora with? And, how did the experience compare to playing with an 'average' gaming group? (However one might define average size for a gaming group)
[20:29] <&Brandon_Wallace> Diaspora supplement?  Shiiiny.  Let me get my time machine real quick and pick up a copy.  :P
[20:29] <+VSCA-Brad> Gemini: I have always played with 4-6 people. I don't know how FATE can handle small numbers of players. I have my suspicions but I've never tested it.
[20:29] <+CWMarshall> Two players and a ref has been done several times.
[20:30] <+CWMarshall> (for short-term games, at least)
[20:30] <+flyingmice> Then you can tell Brad and Toph what to put in it, Brandon!
[20:30] <+VSCA-Brad> What did you find, Toph?
[20:30] <+Drakkar> oh for the record, regarding mecha-related stuff
[20:31] <+Drakkar> you can use a single implied rule to make mechs in bulldogs! with ease
[20:31] <+Drakkar> I run a regular super robot wars game using it
[20:31] <+CWMarshall> Thanks, Drakkar.
[20:32] <+VSCA-Brad> I had a whole mecha system dreamed up for Diamondback that revolved arround managing Heat as a negative resource and it was pretty cool but in the end I think it was its own game. Now I think I'd just work mechs into a special build system for platoon scale combat.
[20:32] <~Dan> What's the tech level of Diaspora?
[20:32] <+Drakkar> (just add 6 to normal weapon costs to create a vehicle weapon)
[20:32] <+puke> So, glancing at phreeow now, one of the ideas was for something like mapless tactical combat -- and some of the ideas there look like they might work well for generic chase scenes or be extensible into other areas of the game.
[20:32] <+Gemini> hmm. Well, maybe I can try to coerce… err… convince 2 others to play with me :p It'd be much easier, though, if you came up with a module that allowed cats to play PCs! Or at least, emulate them.
[20:32] <+CWMarshall> If we have mechs, I'd like to see them operating at the platoon scale too.
[20:32] <+VSCA-Brad> Dan: it's suspcisously similar to Traveller but with coarser granularity and an assumption of a limit (catastrophe, ascension, whatever) at the high end.
[20:33] <+Drakkar> haha
[20:33] <+Drakkar> yeah that is a solid idea
[20:33] <&Brandon_Wallace> Well, mecha should fit into a set of generic vehicle rules.
[20:33] <~Dan> So "Imperial sci-fi"? Energy weapons but not human augmentations?
[20:33] <&Brandon_Wallace> jeeps, apcs, tanks, trucks, etc.
[20:33] <+VSCA-Brad> Dan: Well, as with Traveller, I think the fun space is down at the very edge of projectile weapon technology.
[20:34] <+VSCA-Brad> Energy weapons are at the high end of the scale, just before Clarke's Rule takes over.
[20:34] <+CWMarshall> Posthumanism is there if you want it. One of the demo characters is squarely in that territory, to show how flexible the system is.
[20:34] <+VSCA-Brad> Though it's still hard to believe that that character came out of Tim's head since he is the least well-read (in terms of sf) of all of us.
[20:35] <~Dan> Are there psionics?
[20:35] <+VSCA-Brad> haha
[20:35] <+VSCA-Brad> No!
[20:35] <+VSCA-Brad> And also yes.
[20:35] <+CWMarshall> optionally.
[20:35] <~Dan> So no, yes, and maybe?
[20:35] <+CWMarshall> The way fate works, they're very easy to add without being unbalancing.
[20:35] <&Brandon_Wallace> "Psionics" is in the table of contents.  :p
[20:35] <+CWMarshall> It's part of why we all responded well to fate; there are inbuilt controlling mechanisms.
[20:35] <+VSCA-Brad> Well, I don't like them in my sf. Others do. And they are easy to plug into FATE, so there are some pretty clever rules that I didn't write for them.
[20:37] <+CWMarshall> Again, it allows players to tell the story they want. the bonuses for paying a fate point are pretty constrained, so it was just a matter of defining things like telekinesis in those terms, emulating other skills, and letting players pay a point for them
[20:37] <+Gemini> how did you guys meet?
[20:37] <+boulet> What's the status of Soft Horizon? (I've been waiting but that's basically what I came to hear about heh)
[20:38] <+CWMarshall> I got invited to Brad's table by a buddy of mine that I played in a D&D game with. I've been grateful to steve ever since.
[20:38] <+CWMarshall> That was in the 80s, and I then brought along m best friend at the time.
[20:38] <+CWMarshall> We reconnected after a 12 year hiatus, when we both found ourselves in Vancouver again.
[20:39] <+VSCA-Brad> boulet: I was having trouble focusing on Soft Horizon so I pulled it all to myself, asked everyone else to not help me, and I'm trying to build a playable base to start talking about. Right now it's very close to the point where I can show it to Toph and beg for his assistance.
[20:39] <+Gemini> nice :) I like that story
[20:39] * +boulet jumps up and down like a 6 years old girl
[20:39] <+VSCA-Brad> There are some bits that need some brilliant ideas to solve and I think I am out of those, so again, I will have to call in the big guns.
[20:40] <+VSCA-Brad> And Steve, by the way, is now a bicycle repairman in Australia.
[20:40] <+puke> How well will it fit for traditional sized (not 1 on 1) groups?
[20:40] <+boulet> lol
[20:41] <+VSCA-Brad> puke: I am forced to agree with Toph that it needs to support larger groups. Right now it doesn't. That's where I will need to open up to him for help I think.
[20:41] <+VSCA-Brad> I love the one-on-one play but part of the reaons I'm developing it in that context is that right now I have a two-person table to test with.
[20:42] <+VSCA-Brad> And I can really only make games by playing them. That's probably not very professional.
[20:42] <+puke> just kicking an idea out there, Polaris was essentialy one on one play with two refs and you rotated roles at each scene change.
[20:42] <+puke> not sure how well it worked, but there it is.
[20:42] <+VSCA-Brad> puke: I'm using that for two player but I always felt that the other two people in Polaris really got handed make-work projects. I want to avoid that.
[20:42] <+puke> I wasnt a fan either.
[20:43] <+Drakkar> polaris as in the tragedy rpg?
[20:43] <+VSCA-Brad> Yes
[20:43] <+puke> the north pole elves.
[20:43] <+Drakkar> yeah
[20:43] <+Drakkar> i can agree with that
[20:43] <+Drakkar> it is an interesting experiment though
[20:44] <+Silverlion> Yeah, always play games, and work with them
[20:44] <+VSCA-Brad> I can't really comment on how well Polaris plays because I've never played it. It's intriguing but it never made it to the top of my play heap.
[20:44] <+puke> Have you kept the Cluster Generation ideas for SH?
[20:45] <+CWMarshall> Yes! (he says answering for Brad) With some cool improvements (precise details of which are still to be determined)
[20:45] <+VSCA-Brad> puke: yes but with substantial modifications. The ever-brilliant JB Bell gave me some great ideas (which is only fair since I stole some of the ones I gave him in order to make Hollowpoint…wait that's not fair at all) that have made for some very evocative planes.
[20:45] <+puke> think those improvements would translate back to Diaspora at all?
[20:46] <+CWMarshall> ...check out Diamondback to find out...
[20:46] <+VSCA-Brad> puke: they are not really refinements but rather substantial divergences. I haven't thought about how that might roll back on Diaspora.
[20:46] <+VSCA-Brad> It doesn't use Fudge dice, for example, for plane stats but rather |d6-d6| which gives an asymmetrical curve from zero to five.
[20:46] <+VSCA-Brad> With some nifty new axes of information.
[20:47] <+CWMarshall> (Axes of information was the Dwarven librarian game we began, but soon aborted)
[20:47] <+puke> how are you adding axes, just additional attributes to generate values for?
[20:47] <+VSCA-Brad> haha
[20:48] <+puke> couldnt get Wierd Al to reprise his role from UHF?
[20:48] <+VSCA-Brad> puke: well, in |d6-d6| any zero result is because you rolled doubles. That means there are six distinct "kinds" of zero. So we use that. A zero result is Very Special and has some extra information from the "kind" to help pump the imagination for it.
[20:49] <+boulet> neat
[20:49] <+VSCA-Brad> So, for example, a zero in Civilization means there is no significant human organization in the plane. The kind of zero helps answer "why?"
[20:49] <+CWMarshall> A zero value can also mean a *failed* (or *failing*) system/plane, and so to be able to defie six ways that is happening can provide some strong narrative grease for the ref.
[20:49] <+puke> do you extend that to other non-zero values?  fewer choices the further from 0 you get of course...
[20:49] <+VSCA-Brad> Foe example...
[20:49] <+VSCA-Brad> Once there was a great civilization but it was destroyed by gods.
[20:49] <+VSCA-Brad> Once there was a great civilization but it destroyed itself.
[20:49] <+VSCA-Brad> This world is too new for civilization.
[20:50] <+VSCA-Brad> No, there's no clear extra axis of information for non-zero values and so far they don't seem to need one.
[20:51] <+puke> I'm reminded about someones post about adding narration to cluster gen, they added a die roll to determine if any given value was on the rise or on the fall.
[20:51] <+VSCA-Brad> Yes! That was an RPG Geek post and it is wonderful!
[20:51] <+VSCA-Brad> (Link:
[20:51] <+VSCA-Brad> I wish I'd written it. About three years ago.
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[20:52] <+VSCA-Brad> I'd even be okay if Toph had written it. But I'd rather I had.
[20:52] <&Brandon_Wallace> heheh
[20:52] <+Drakkar> yeah it was really good
[20:53] <+VSCA-Brad> So the other thing that's cooking nicely is No Contact which I have farmed out to third parties for alpha testing since I don't have the table resources yet.
[20:53] <+flyingmice> Ouch!
[20:53] <+VSCA-Brad> It's a wargame I wrote that is getting wedged into an RPG since that seems to be how RPGs originated anyway.
[20:54] <+puke> Oh, hey, how RPGy vs Wargamey is it?  Is combat narrative?
[20:54] <+VSCA-Brad> And I'm learning how to get useful information from people I don't deal with face to face, which has been valuable.
[20:54] <+VSCA-Brad> Well it started out with miniatures and tape measures.
[20:55] <+VSCA-Brad> Vietnam era infantry tactics.
[20:55] <+flyingmice> So - pretty wargamer-y! :D
[20:55] <&Brandon_Wallace> As a wargamer, I'm curious about the original rules.  :)
[20:55] <+VSCA-Brad> But it was inspired by two excellent (though flawed) discussions of violence that I read for Hollowpoint research. So in a way it's a non-violent wargame. But it's totally violent.
[20:56] <+VSCA-Brad> Brandon_Wallace: the original rules will survive pretty much unscathed.
[20:56] <+CWMarshall> It is wargamery, but for folk like me who don't have that in the background, it's still very playable.
[20:56] <~Dan> What game is this, now?
[20:56] <&Le_Squide> So, does the final version still use the tape measures?
[20:56] <+VSCA-Brad> Dan: No Contact
[20:57] <~Dan> And that's the new game you mentoined?
[20:57] <+VSCA-Brad> The other inspiration for it was a d20 Modern bait and switch Vietnam game I ran that turned out to actually about insect swarms that pupeteer human corpses.
[20:57] <+VSCA-Brad> Yes!
[20:57] <+Drakkar> reminds me of Weird War II
[20:58] <+Drakkar> iirc they had crazy mosquito spirits statted up
[20:58] <+CWMarshall> Dan: There's No Contact (Vietnam horror) and Soft Horizon (plane-hopping fantasy), both in the works.
[20:58] <+VSCA-Brad> Drakkar: there are a million works in the genre for sure. David Drake wrote a few wonderful Lovecraftian Vietnam war stories that are important to me.
[20:58] <~Dan> Do they both use the same system?
[20:58] <+VSCA-Brad> No
[20:58] <+VSCA-Brad> Every game is new.
[20:58] <+CWMarshall> That d20 Modern game was a hoot -- real feelings of fear, which are rare in a horror game.
[20:58] <+Drakkar> oh yeah definitely, david drake is great
[20:58] <~Dan> What are their respective systems?
[20:59] <+VSCA-Brad> Dan: both are purre custom systems designed to support the game.
[21:00] <+CWMarshall> (and no laser cats)
[21:00] <&Brandon_Wallace> (yet?)
[21:00] <+VSCA-Brad> Soft Horizon is right now an interpretive dice pool system related to Hollowpoint, but it could change. No Contact is … harder to explain. You track Wounds, Suppression, and Fear.
[21:01] <+VSCA-Brad> Laser Cats are a great metaphor for a kind of awesome that I'm not interested in --- but I get.
[21:01] <&Le_Squide> Neat.
[21:01] <+VSCA-Brad> Water Vehicle Guy is a metaphor for something I don't get. :D
[21:01] <&Le_Squide> But: Does it still have tape measures?
[21:01] <+puke> something about that comment re: a system that tracks Wounds Suppression and Fear reminds me of the earlier discussion of A Dirty World and its sliders.
[21:01] <+puke> any inspiration from that?
[21:02] <+VSCA-Brad> Le_Squide: I took that out but as I re-write I find that it's trivial to put back in. It will work hex, square, or tape measure.
[21:02] <&Le_Squide> I'm a big hex fan.
[21:02] <&Le_Squide> As that's where I started, waaaay back when
[21:02] <+VSCA-Brad> puke: unintentionally maybe. Certainly it's a hard game to get out of your head when designing.
[21:02] <+VSCA-Brad> Le_Squide: when D&D stopped setting movement values in inches, it lost me. :D
[21:03] <+VSCA-Brad> So my preference is tape measures.
[21:03] <+CWMarshall> (Toph looks up form his hex map)
[21:03] <~Dan> Brad: Which game do you think is the one that I'd like? :)
[21:03] <+VSCA-Brad> Hexes have problems for indoor maps -- it's always nicer if you can line walls up with the grid.
[21:03] <+puke> you guys have inches in the frozen north?
[21:03] <+VSCA-Brad> Dan: I think you'll get a kick out of No Contact. I think it will surprise you.
[21:04] <+VSCA-Brad> puke: all wargamers have inches.
[21:04] <+xyphoid> so true
[21:04] <+puke> shockingly, even GW gamers have inches.
[21:04] <+VSCA-Brad> Dan: I think after you decide you can't like it you will hate yourself for loving it. :D
[21:04] <+xyphoid> it's been metric around here since like 50 years before i was born
[21:04] <~Dan> Is Soft Horizon medieval fantasy, or something else?
[21:04] <+xyphoid> and i can still estimate 24 inches at a glance
[21:05] <+VSCA-Brad> Dan: it's psychedelic fantasy. Think early Heavy Metal, Moorcock, Zelazny.
[21:05] <+VSCA-Brad> It will play Amber tidily out of the box without emulating any specific elements of the fiction.
[21:05] <+VSCA-Brad> Anything drawn by Jean Giraud is fair game.
[21:05] <+boulet> (Moebius)
[21:05] <+VSCA-Brad> What he said
[21:05] <&Le_Squide> Man, I'm looking forward to that too, now
[21:05] <~Dan> So, sci-fi/fantasy?
[21:05] <&Le_Squide> Any sort of ETA for these?
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[21:05] <+VSCA-Brad> Damn, no pressure, right?
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[21:06] <+boulet> VSCA-Brad: we'll provide the helium to avoid a cavitation problem
[21:06] <+VSCA-Brad> Dan: as with Diaspora the setting is significantly influenced by the players in the first session. The stats for each world/plane set the tone, though, and they are Civlilization, Magic, and Intercession.
[21:07] <+VSCA-Brad> Le_Squide: I am so bad at scheduling (despite being very successful with it professionally) that I do not give dates. Last year I would have said January of this year.
[21:07] <+puke> do they change through play?
[21:07] <&Le_Squide> Gotcha
[21:07] <+puke> or rather, i should ask "is play about changing them"
[21:07] <+VSCA-Brad> puke: Toph says they have to, so they do. :D I agree now!
[21:07] <+CWMarshall> woo hoo!
[21:08] <+VSCA-Brad> The last session we played had two very significant plane stat changes and it was awesome.
[21:08] <+VSCA-Brad> A demigod that controls passage between planes was destroyed, changing one plane forever.
[21:09] <+VSCA-Brad> And both of the characters in play right now are dedicated to changing certain planar stats. That works really well.
[21:09] <+CWMarshall> The advantage of that is it gives something for players to do: as ultra powerful fantasy types, motivating collective action is tough. Changing plane stats (building up or destroying planes) is a concrete action at an appropriate scale that drives action, and takes a significant burden off the ref.
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[21:10] <+flyingmice> Hi gyppo!
[21:10] <+puke> Do players have.. i dont know.. "holdings?"  most games the default action is adventurers, but gods might have permanent places of power.  what is your default assumption?
[21:11] <+puke> by adventurers, i mean vagabond jackasses.
[21:11] <&egyptian> Howdy
[21:12] <+CWMarshall> One of the defining character features is your Duty. Some Duties involve "holdings". One or two might involve being a jackass. That's something to check for, actually.
[21:12] <+VSCA-Brad> They can if they want. It's not strictly mechanically relevant but if you have a character that identifies with Warfare, narrating in an army is obvious and fine. Ditto with a castle (or a country) if you like.
[21:12] <+VSCA-Brad> Players find their way to jackass without mechanical assistance I find.
[21:12] <+puke> so how does changing a plane figure into someone with a home plane of power?  is defending it a central point of the action?
[21:12] <+boulet> (no shit)
[21:13] <+CWMarshall> (Toph takes a deep bow)
[21:13] <+VSCA-Brad> But the Duties are surprisingly powerful and defining. They have no mechanical representation, just facts for you to employ at will. So, for example, Emperor is always obeyed by any NPC without stats. SO during narration (before any dice hit the table) the character naturally orders people around.
[21:14] <+VSCA-Brad> puke: what I've found in play is that the home plane is not so important. Characters that can traverse the planes tend to have different kinds of allegiances. But it can happen.
[21:15] <+VSCA-Brad> Instead characters tend towards defenders (or opponents!) of Civilization or of particular gods or undines.
[21:15] <+VSCA-Brad> Or Magic or Intercessions.
[21:15] <+VSCA-Brad> It might now be clear that my guilty secret is a deep love of the old D&D alignment system. :D
[21:17] <+boulet> I don't get it
[21:17] <+VSCA-Brad> I liek extreme, absolute, abstract devotions.
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[21:18] <+VSCA-Brad> In this kind of fiction, anyway.
[21:18] <+Drakkar> boulet the old alignment system was quite a bit different
[21:18] <+Drakkar> VSCA-Brad do you mean BECMI's?
[21:18] <+VSCA-Brad> I don't know that acronym!
[21:19] <+Drakkar> basic, expert, companion, master, immortals~
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[21:19] <+Drakkar> ie basic D&D and the like
[21:19] <+VSCA-Brad> I like the old D&D Law vs. Chaos. I can make lots of great stuff work with the Law/Chaos/Neutral/Good/Evil graph.
[21:19] <+Drakkar> yeah
[21:19] <+puke> Do you have color pools?
[21:19] <+VSCA-Brad> Defending my boyfriend is less interesting in this kind of fiction.
[21:19] <+VSCA-Brad> haha
[21:19] <+Drakkar> hahahaha
[21:20] <+VSCA-Brad> No, but I did just buy a crapton of MtG cards for ideas. I love the core conceit of that game -- here are the rules and the cards are all exceptions.
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[21:20] <~Dan> Okay! Game session over. You have my full attention now. :)
[21:21] <~Dan> Welcome to #rpgnet, RakashasaSkipp!
[21:21] <+puke> There was another one like that.. Cosmic Encounters?  where each player could break rules in a different way.
[21:21] <+VSCA-Brad> Oh man I played the hell out of Cosmic Encounters
[21:21] <+CWMarshall> Ha! I remember that.
[21:21] <+VSCA-Brad> I think we just found my secret weakness.
[21:21] <+Drakkar> hahaha
[21:21] <+RakshasaSkipp> Hi!  Just poking around on and found the thread talking about this place, so I figured I'd drop by and say hi
[21:22] <+VSCA-Brad> Also digging Smallworld which has a similar vibe.
[21:22] <~Dan> Toph/Brad: Did you answer my question re: Soft Horions and sci-fi/fantasy? If so, I missed it.
[21:22] <+puke> not familliar with smallworld.
[21:22] <+VSCA-Brad> What was the question, Dan?
[21:22] <+VSCA-Brad> puke: it's a boardgame that's well worth the energy and cash
[21:22] <~Dan> RakshasaSkipp: Well, at the moment, we have a Q&A session going on in here (see topic), and we have general chat going on in #rpgnet2.
[21:23] <+VSCA-Brad> (Link:
[21:23] <~Dan> Brad: Is Soft Horizons sci-fi/fantasy, or all fantasy?
[21:23] * +boulet loves cosmic encounter
[21:23] <+VSCA-Brad> Dan: that comes out of the first session of plane creation. It doesn't explicitly demand an sf component but it fits in nicely if that's where you want to go.
[21:23] <+CWMarshall> All fantasy, but there's always the possibility that a given plane will be defined in sf-like terms when planes are generated
[21:23] <+CWMarshall> (oops)
[21:24] <~Dan> Hmm.
[21:24] <+VSCA-Brad> But that said, "science" probably isn't a dominant factor.
[21:24] <~Dan> How difficult would that be with the rules?
[21:24] <+puke> Oh, hey, did I see whats his name.. Wesley Crusher do a really well produced celebrity let's play video of that game?
[21:24] <+VSCA-Brad> Easy. It's mostly a matter of tone. There's no gear or detailed combat simulation so it's mostly paint.
[21:24] <+VSCA-Brad> puke: yes!
[21:25] <+puke> Will Wheaton.
[21:25] <+puke> yeah, that looked awesome.
[21:26] <+VSCA-Brad> Oh man I guess we ran over our alotted hour.
[21:26] <+CWMarshall> Hurray!
[21:26] <+VSCA-Brad> :D
[21:26] <~Dan> Lucky you have two allotted, then. :)
[21:26] <+VSCA-Brad> Oh man now it's work!
[21:27] <~Dan> So what are the stats and skills like in Soft Horizons?
[21:27] <+CWMarshall> he heh.  I actually need to duck out. Any final questions?
[21:27] <+puke> If I wanted to pry more Diamondback details or ideas out of CWMarshall, how might I go about that?
[21:27] <+VSCA-Brad> Oh yeah, we also produced a Fiasco play set based on the film The Beast. That was fun. It's free!
[21:28] <+VSCA-Brad> puke: both of us are on G+ and can be hard to shut up (as you've seen)
[21:28] <+VSCA-Brad> And I think Toph Kibos most of the rpg forums.
[21:28] <+CWMarshall> ha ha ha. Yeah -- CWMarshall on G+, to Tophocles on
[21:29] <+puke> I'm going to take that as license to throw some ideas at you then.
[21:29] <+CWMarshall> This has been  real treat, guys.  Dan, Clash, Tim, Franck, Puke, Drakkar... everyone.
[21:29] <+puke> feel free to tell me to effoff.
[21:29] <+CWMarshall> Yes, please do.
[21:29] <~Dan> Please feel free to stop by any time, Toph!
[21:29] <+VSCA-Brad> Thanks Toph!
[21:29] <+Drakkar> see ya and yeah
[21:29] <+Drakkar> ditto on what dan said
[21:29] <+Drakkar> thanks
[21:29] <+CWMarshall> Thanks a lot. This was fun.
[21:29] <~Dan> You don't have to have a Q&A session scheduled to talk about your game. :)
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[21:30] <~Dan> Would you make sure he knows that last bit, Brad?
[21:30] <+VSCA-Brad> No problem, Dan!
[21:30] <+VSCA-Brad> Thanks for setting this up!
[21:30] <~Dan> Certainly!
[21:30] <+Drakkar> that was pretty rad yeah
[21:30] <~Dan> Are you able to answer that last question I had?
[21:32] <+VSCA-Brad> Sure, did I miss it?
[21:32] <~Dan> I asked what the attributes and skills are like in Soft Horizons.
[21:32] <+VSCA-Brad> Oh stats and skills!
[21:32] <+VSCA-Brad> I guess there are sort of skills.
[21:33] <+VSCA-Brad> There are four contexts for conflict that you can be varyingly good at -- Violence, Domination, Warfare, and Diplomacy.
[21:34] <+VSCA-Brad> There are four tests that you can be varyingly good at -- Ritual, Stealth, Tenacity, and Knowledge
[21:34] <+VSCA-Brad> tests happen outside of a conflict usually.
[21:34] <+VSCA-Brad> In a conflict, tests can be used to change the context. So if you are in a violent conflict and you suck at violence, you can try to change the context to someh=thing you are good at instead.
[21:36] <+puke> so Violence:Warfare sounds similar in relation to each other as does Domination:Diplomacy.
[21:36] <+VSCA-Brad> Yes exactly
[21:36] <+puke> what differentiates the items in those pairs?  tactical vs strategic?
[21:36] <+VSCA-Brad> Violence harms substance -- so it does physical damage.
[21:36] <+VSCA-Brad> Warfare harms territory -- so it affects your mobility and your ownership
[21:37] <+VSCA-Brad> and so on.
[21:37] <~Dan> And are there attributes?
[21:37] <+VSCA-Brad> So it's not strictly tactical/strategic, but that's the obvious distinction
[21:38] <+VSCA-Brad> No there are no attributes. If you're great at Violence, you can decide what makes you so great at it. Fireballs, swords, god-destroying flitnlocks -- that's up to you.
[21:38] <+puke> so you cant physically kill someone with your armies? you would need to find a way to do violence?
[21:38] <~Dan> Ah. So really abstract.
[21:39] <+VSCA-Brad> Yes. I found that at the scale I wanted to work at -- plane-hopping super entities that hob nob with gods -- abstraction was necessary to encompass the possibilities.
[21:39] <+VSCA-Brad> All my efforts at detail wound up locking out cool ideas.
[21:40] * ~Dan nods
[21:40] <+VSCA-Brad> I think this is why Amber Diceless works in its context, for example.
[21:40] <+Drakkar> is it possible to scale it down?
[21:40] <+VSCA-Brad> I hope not.
[21:40] <+VSCA-Brad> It's designed to work where it works, like any game I guess. It won't work where it's not supposed to.
[21:40] <+Drakkar> oh not that much
[21:41] <+Drakkar> but i mean like it sounds really cool and I know people would straight up be interested in it who'd also eventually try and make a planescape hack
[21:41] <+flyingmice> I hope Toph can figure out some way to scale it for larger groups though.
[21:41] <+Drakkar> (mind you I have a hack for The One Ring for Planescape, which works really well)
[21:42] <+VSCA-Brad> Well in playtests I;ve seen the same character in combat with three tigers and then in another scene battle an army of Rakshasas
[21:42] <+Drakkar> hm
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[21:42] <+puke> What was that game where you had narrative cards or something?  it was still a small scale character focus game, but with the ability for players to change the shape of the story arc
[21:42] <+puke> was it TORG?
[21:42] <+VSCA-Brad> Yes that was TORG!
[21:42] <+flyingmice> Torg I think.
[21:42] <~Dan> Hooray for TORG!
[21:43] <+Drakkar> TORG!
[21:43] <+VSCA-Brad> Huge fun.
[21:43] <+Drakkar> me too
[21:43] <+Drakkar> I grew up on WEG
[21:43] <~Dan> Nile Empire FTW!
[21:43] <+Drakkar> it actually sounds like rules-wise you wouldn't have to make any changes to scale
[21:43] <@JP> D6 STAR WARS
[21:43] <+Drakkar> just describe things differently
[21:43] <@JP> ftw
[21:43] <+Drakkar> yes!
[21:44] <&Bill> JP, as long as you excise the chapter on force powers, I agree.
[21:44] <+VSCA-Brad> Drakkar: that seems to be how it plays, yes.
[21:44] <@JP> Right, work up a better force system
[21:44] <+deirdre> <3 D6
[21:44] <&Le_Squide> Man, WEG Star Wars was so much more Star Warsy than so much of the other EU stuff.
[21:44] <&Le_Squide> Or
[21:44] <&Le_Squide> You know
[21:44] <+VSCA-Brad> Certainly when you're using Violence it's pretty much mano a mano usually.
[21:44] <+Drakkar> neat
[21:44] <&Le_Squide> the prequels
[21:44] <+puke> So part what you are doing with SH is incorporating those ideas, but making it a seamless part of the system without the card mechanic?
[21:44] * &Le_Squide sighs
[21:44] <+Drakkar> it sounds extremely cool and i will probably buy it
[21:44] <+VSCA-Brad> puke: not consciously but maybe I have been secretly influenced, yes.
[21:45] <+Drakkar> and recommend it to my friends..
[21:45] <+Drakkar> and recommend it to their friends..
[21:45] <+VSCA-Brad> Well I sure hope I finish it sometime then. :D
[21:45] <+Drakkar> but yeah my introduction to RPGs was Star Wars d6, so yeah
[21:45] <+VSCA-Brad> One of the things I love about it that emerged and was not strictly designed is that there is a strong tendency to resolve horrible conflicts without death or injury.
[21:46] <+deirdre> That's not a bad one to start with.
[21:46] <+flyingmice> I want it even if I can't runit.
[21:46] <+Drakkar> haha
[21:46] <+VSCA-Brad> The first time a character killed a "monster" it was unintentional and a kind of tragedy.
[21:46] <+VSCA-Brad> So after I release the game I will totally claim I intended that to happen.
[21:47] <+puke> How do you feel about the zany open-license game publishing of guys like Post Human Studios?
[21:47] <~Dan> Oh, don't let me forget to give you a log of the Q&A, Brad.
[21:47] <+puke> Seeing as how you hang a lotof your early brainstorming work out there in the open for anyone to see
[21:47] <+VSCA-Brad> Dan: thank you Dan
[21:47] <+VSCA-Brad> puke: well I firmly believe that the hard work is in production. Ideas are a dime a dozen.
[21:48] <+VSCA-Brad> Getting the idea to a book to the audience is the hard part.
[21:48] <+flyingmice> I will plus that!
[21:48] <~Dan> So, did everyone enjoy the Q&A?
[21:48] <+Drakkar> yeah definitel
[21:48] <+Drakkar> y
[21:48] * +boulet raises his hand
[21:49] <+VSCA-Brad> I had a blast Dan. Nothing more entertaining to me than talking about myself.
[21:49] <+flyingmice> Oh yeah!
[21:49] <+Drakkar> hahaha
[21:49] <@JP> heh
[21:49] <~Dan> :D
[21:49] <~Dan> Yes, boulet?
[21:49] <+puke> real treat, thanks Brad.
[21:49] <+boulet> no just approving
[21:49] <~Dan> Ah. :)
[21:49] <+VSCA-Brad> Happy to, of course. Bug me on the rest of the interwebs any time.
[21:49] <+boulet> it was neat
[21:50] <~Dan> I hope you all can make it tomorrow night. We've got another good one lined up.
[21:50] <+puke> Will do
[21:50] <+deirdre> I was ignorant of the source, so I keot my mouth shut. it was interesting, though. I've added to the wishlist. :)
[21:50] <+puke> Whos up tomorrow, Dan?
[21:50] <~Dan> The author of Reclamation, a new post-apocalypse game.
[21:50] <+boulet> I don't know these names
[21:51] <~Dan> (Link:
[21:52] <+VSCA-Brad> Oh I would like to mention the thing I love about the way Hollowpoint worked out: the first entry in the index is "adult diapers". I love index jokes.
[21:52] <+deirdre> Ah, I remember you mentioning this.
[21:52] * &Bill does the zzzzzzzzz dance.
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[21:52] <+puke> the gameplay advice around those were invalueable
[21:53] <~Dan> It seems really entertaining so far. Almost like post-apocalypse superheroes.
[21:53] <+VSCA-Brad> Well it came from actual play so it has to be true. :D
[21:53] <+puke> I was really able to make people feel bad about asking for help, or participating in help -- something they were othewise very eager to do.
[21:53] <+VSCA-Brad> puke: yeah if everyone is all sharey and pleasant the team will fail. :D
[21:53] <+puke> I think that the Adult Diapers bit may have been the single most valuable part of the book for me.
[21:54] <+Drakkar> ..
[21:54] <+boulet> dan: what about Eloy Lasantha, do you have a link for his game(s)?
[21:54] <+Drakkar> hahahaha
[21:54] <+Drakkar> man
[21:54] <+Drakkar> that still hits me hard
[21:54] <~Dan> Eloy's been here for a session before, and will be coming back soon. :)
[21:56] <+puke> Have to bounce, thanks again to the hosts and to the panelists!
[21:56] <~Dan> Eloy's a great guy.
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[21:56] <+boulet> oh so the calendar is wrong?
[21:56] <~Dan> Why do you say that?
[21:57] <+boulet> it says he'll be there at 9 tomorrow
[21:57] <~Dan> Oh, that's right... I forgot that I had finally gotten him scheduled.
[21:57] <~Dan> Yup, that's correct.
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[22:01] <~Dan> Howdy, jtb!
[22:01] <~Dan> And I'm off for the night. Have a good one, folks!
[22:01] <+jtbullet> DAAANNNN
[22:01] <+deirdre> nighty
[22:01] <+jtbullet> im Scrivening
[22:01] <+deirdre> ooh
[22:02] <+flyingmice> Night Dan!
[22:02] *** Disconnected.

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