Monday, February 10, 2014

[Q&A] Brent Newhall (The Whispering Road)

[19:05] <+BrentNewhall> Hello, everyone! I'm Brent P. Newhall, the designer of The Whispering Road
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[19:05] <~Dan> (Welcome to #rpgnet, WrongNumber!)
[19:05] <~Dan> (Howdy, Andrew!)
[19:05] <+FASA-Andrew> (Hey Dan. Did the server burp or something?)
[19:05] <+BrentNewhall> The Whispering Road is currently in its final days of a Kickstarter.
[19:06] <+BrentNewhall> The game's designed to evoke the kinds of stories told by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli.
[19:06] <+BrentNewhall> (done)
[19:06] <~Dan> (Andrew: Probably.)
[19:06] <~Dan> Thanks, Brent!
[19:06] <~Dan> Any questions to start us off?
[19:07] <+FASA-Andrew> What's the mechanic like? Sorry if you already covered that, I missed the intro.
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[19:07] <+BrentNewhall> The core mechanic involves the characters' "traits" and "needs."
[19:08] <+BrentNewhall> Each character has 5-7 traits, which are simple descriptors like "Amazing Durability" and "Words of Wisdom"
[19:08] <+BrentNewhall> Each player also gives his or her character a burning need: something the character wants, but is hampered by another character.
[19:09] <+BrentNewhall> (E.g., "I want to keep my younger sister safe, but she's constantly wandering off and getting into trouble.")
[19:09] <+BrentNewhall> Every conflict has to involve at least one of the PCs' needs.
[19:09] <+BrentNewhall> Players then tap traits in exchange for dice.
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[19:10] <+Hastur> ...and I'm back.
[19:10] <+BrentNewhall> Traits can have a tag (relational, physical, or intellectual), and if that tag matches the scene, the player gets a d8; otherwise they get a d6.
[19:10] <+Abstruse> (I'm here...was doing taxes)
[19:10] <~Dan> (wb, Hastur!)
[19:10] <+BrentNewhall> Everyone rolls dice; dice that roll 5 or higher satisfy the need that the players were trying to satisfy.
[19:11] <+BrentNewhall> A conflict can involve multiple characters' needs, and they can (indeed, are mechanically encouraged to) bid traits to help other characters' needs.
[19:11] <+BrentNewhall> (done)
[19:11] <+BrentNewhall> Sorry for the long response, but that's a major chunk of the system. :-)
[19:11] <&Silverlion> What if there are cross needs in play?
[19:11] <~Dan> No problem, Brent. It's your "show". :)
[19:12] <+GenoFoxx> so we can avoid 'grave of the fireflies' depressing?
[19:12] <+BrentNewhall> Silverlion: That's actually common! Each PC decides how those traits are used.
[19:12] <+BrentNewhall> You can use on trait to try to satisfy your own need and another to try to satisfy someone else.
[19:12] <+BrentNewhall> And, of course, that may or may not work. :-)
[19:12] <+FASA-Andrew> I could see needs being in conflict as a means of driving interpersonal roleplay
[19:12] <&Silverlion> Well I was wondering about the needs being opposing..
[19:12] <+BrentNewhall> GenoFoxx: Definitely! :-) Though I just played in a surprisingly dark game of Whispering Road yesterday.
[19:13] <+BrentNewhall> Silverlion: Good question!
[19:13] <+BrentNewhall> Needs rarely oppose in a way that prevents the story from moving forward.
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[19:14] <+BrentNewhall> For example, the character above might have a little sister, whose need is "I want to prove that I can take care of myself, but my older sister won't let me play."
[19:14] <+BrentNewhall> If both needs are met, the older might see that the younger actually *is* safe in this situation.
[19:14] <+BrentNewhall> (done)
[19:14] <+FASA-Andrew> If opposing needs stall the session, you've got players not cooperating with each other, at least in any game system I've played before
[19:14] <+GenoFoxx> how flexible to different genre's is the system? ...can I do Miyazaki in SPAAAAAACe!!
[19:15] <+BrentNewhall> FASA-Andrew: Exactly!
[19:15] <+BrentNewhall> GenoFoxx: Great question! There's nothing in the system tying you to a particular genre.
[19:15] <+BrentNewhall> The mechanics are more about how characters are growing personally and how they interact with each other, as well as the overall story structure.
[19:16] <+BrentNewhall> I should explain that: the game provides a 5-act story structure, inspired by the Hero's Journey.
[19:16] <&Silverlion> Sounds like it is very much designed for "trust" based games.
[19:16] <+BrentNewhall> There's a prologue, followed by Entering a New World, Facing Antagonists, Discovering Allies, the Ordeal, and Resolving the Conflict. There's then a short epilogue.
[19:16] <&Silverlion> That is where the players and gm must give trust to one another to play out something cool.
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[19:17] <+BrentNewhall> It's written so that those phases can all be completely metaphorical. The "new world" may simply be a vacation home, or a new grade in school.
[19:18] <+BrentNewhall> The traits--there are 30 of them--are simply terms with short descriptors, so it's easy to add setting-specific ones if you so choose.
[19:18] <+BrentNewhall> Silverlion: Yeah, though I think that if the players and GMs don't give trust to each other, well, that's not a group I want to write games for. :-)
[19:18] <+BrentNewhall> (done)
[19:19] * &Silverlion tends to agree, but was verifying :D
[19:19] <+BrentNewhall> Silverlion: Totally understood and appreciated. :-)
[19:19] <+BrentNewhall> Lemme mention a few other pieces: each character also has an archetype (like a class), as well as "good karma" and "bad karma" which start at 0
[19:19] <~Dan> So how does the game handle issues of scale?
[19:19] <&Silverlion> Are there any features that make this fee; uniquely Miyazaki in style?
[19:20] <&Silverlion> feel*
[19:20] <+Bigby> Did the Q&A start at 7 (the header says 8) or is the guest just here early?
[19:20] <+BrentNewhall> The archetype is more Hero's Journey: you're an ordinary person, special person, mentor, or rascal.
[19:20] <~Dan> (And yes, I know that we've discussed some of this before. :) )
[19:20] <+BrentNewhall> Dan: Heh.
[19:20] <+BrentNewhall> Well, scale isn't really an issue, as it's all about how the characters satisfy their needs.
[19:20] <+FASA-Andrew> Have you got scenarios based on Miyazaki / Ghibli works? Or would the licensing fees preclude that?
[19:21] <+FASA-Andrew> I would think scale would be a non-issue i you're going for a Miyazaki feel, as the focus always remains tightly on the main characters.
[19:21] <+BrentNewhall> Think of it like the river god in Spirited Away: Chihiro can't "win" that in any reasonable way. But she satisfies her character's need, to learn how to be a better person.
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[19:22] <~Dan> (Howdy, Rasyr!)
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[19:23] <+BrentNewhall> Silverlion: I wrote all the traits with Miyazaki heroes and heroines in mind: Amazing Durability (Pazu), Animal Companion (Nausicaa), Calm in the Storm (Ashitaka), Fiercely Protective (Satsuki), Power of Flight (Kiki).
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[19:23] <~Dan> So are NPCs totally stat-free?
[19:24] <+BrentNewhall> Dan: Great question: NPCs are stat-free, though you can build an ally which gets 2 traits that anyone in the group can tap.
[19:24] <+BlasterKyubey210> Ah fun
[19:24] <+BrentNewhall> As FASA-Andrew said, the focus is tightly on the PCs and what they're trying to do.
[19:24] <+BrentNewhall> (done)
[19:25] <+BrentNewhall> (Feel free to ask questions as I'm typing, BTW; I think I can mostly keep up.)
[19:25] <~Dan> So nothing can make what they're attempting any more or less difficult beyond whether or not they're trying to fulfill a need?
[19:25] <+DrNate> Is this the game from kickstarter?
[19:25] <+BrentNewhall> Dan: Exactly. There is one twist to that, though...
[19:25] <+BrentNewhall> At the end of each Act, you can only untap two of your traits.
[19:26] <+BrentNewhall> The game's built so that your traits will tend to dry up over the 5 acts, and at the end, you'll only have 1 or 2 untapped.
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[19:26] <+BlasterKyubey210> Timing is everything thus
[19:26] <+BrentNewhall> So there's always a question of how much you want to risk on any given conflict.
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[19:26] <+BrentNewhall> BlasterKyubey210: Right, exactly!
[19:26] <+BrentNewhall> DrNate: Yep
[19:26] <+BrentNewhall> Heh, I should probably link to the Kickstarter, shouldn't it? (Link:
[19:27] <+DrNate> Can I have the link? I don't know how much money I can spare until someone hires me, but maybe
[19:27] <+BrentNewhall> DrNate: It's $5 for the PDF and $20 for the softcover, each 8x8" and about 25 pages.
[19:27] <+BrentNewhall> USD
[19:27] <+BrentNewhall> Plus extra PDF stuff that will drop along the way.
[19:28] <+BrentNewhall> (done)
[19:28] <+BrentNewhall> (If I've missed any questions, feel free to ask them again.)
[19:28] <+DrNate> How does it feel to have beaten your goal by like 1000%?
[19:28] <+BrentNewhall> Ha! Awesome and scary. :-)
[19:29] <+BrentNewhall> I have 400 print orders to fulfill now. :-)
[19:29] <+DrNate> So many people have so much faith in you just based on what you have presented so far
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[19:29] <+DrNate> Why 8"x8"?
[19:29] <+BrentNewhall> Actually, funny story there:
[19:30] <+BrentNewhall> Rob Donoghue (of Evil Hat) emailed me a few days after the Kickstarter launched and gave me a bunch of great advice.
[19:30] <+BrentNewhall> He advised that I *not* go crazy on stretch goals and keep the Kickstarter really simple.
[19:30] <+BrentNewhall> I've really wanted to pile on cool printed stuff, like cards and glossy posters and such, but I've kept it simple.
[19:30] <+BrentNewhall> And that's one of the bigger selling points now. People appreciate that I'm not risking the whole game.
[19:31] <~Dan> Does the game include any sample settings?
[19:32] <+DrNate> for the best. stretch goals like that cold slow things down
[19:32] <+BrentNewhall> 8"x8" for a couple of reasons: it's less expensive to ship, it's an unusual form factor, it's the same size as two RPGs I love and were inspirations (Do: Pilgrim of the Flying Temple and Mouse Guard), and it's actually easier to slip into a backpack or otherwise take with you without getting all creased.
[19:32] <+Lassek> shoveled over $5 .__.
[19:32] <+DrNate> I noticed his backers just went up one
[19:32] <~Dan> (That's what you get for being up late, Lassek. :) )
[19:32] <+BrentNewhall> Dan: No sample settings in the rule book, though one of the stretch goals is for an extra PDF where I describe half a dozen sample settings.
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[19:32] <+BrentNewhall> I'm a little gun shy about putting sample settings in the book itself.
[19:33] <+BrentNewhall> People have a tendency to see whatever's written in the book as "official" settings, and will tend to only play games in those settings.
[19:33] <+BrentNewhall> I want folks to really collaborate on world building--indeed, the first few pages of rules are all about collaborative world-building.
[19:34] <+DrNate> I'm doing the $20 as so;on as I figure out how
[19:34] <+BrentNewhall> As in, part of the game is to define the world.
[19:34] <+BrentNewhall> Lassek: Thanks! :-D
[19:34] <+BrentNewhall> DrNate: Much appreciated.
[19:34] <+BrentNewhall> (done)
[19:34] <+DrNate> what, no more stretch goals?
[19:34] <+DrNate> where's the 15k stretch goal?
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[19:35] <+BrentNewhall> Oh, the $15K stretch goal is for a video game, to be released on Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android. In July.
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[19:35] <~Dan> BrentNewhall: I feel the need to ask a Devil's advocate-type question that I fear may sound snarky. I apologize in advance and assure you that such is not my intent.
[19:35] <+BrentNewhall> ;-D
[19:35] <+BrentNewhall> Dan: Go for it.
[19:35] <+DrNate> You should have included a $1M stretch goal. I suspect you might have made it
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[19:35] <+BrentNewhall> DrNate: Ha!
[19:36] <~Dan> Okay, so... given the simplicity of the system and the lack of a setting, what would you say your customers are buying?
[19:36] <+BrentNewhall> Fabulous question.
[19:36] <+DrNate> AfterDan I have a blast of 3-5 tough questions too, since he opened the doors for it
[19:36] <+BrentNewhall> The Kickstarter is actually paying for art, professional layout and editing, and printing and shipping.
[19:37] <+BrentNewhall> In fact, the original $1,000 goal *only* paid for art, printing, and shipping.
[19:38] <+BrentNewhall> With more money, I'm able to add more polish to the product, and indeed, I may now be able to go with an even higher-quality publisher/printer.
[19:38] <+BrentNewhall> I'm a firm believer that Kickstarter shouldn't be used as a pre-order system.
[19:38] <+BrentNewhall> So this is going to make a really nice product, which I just couldn't afford myself.
[19:39] <+BrentNewhall> (done)
[19:39] <~Dan> Want to jump in with your questions before I follow up, DrNate?
[19:41] <~Dan> Okay then! :)
[19:41] <+BrentNewhall> heh
[19:41] <~Dan> What takes up the majority of the pagecount?
[19:41] <+BrentNewhall> It'll be about 50% rules, 30% art, and 20% sample characters and play sample.
[19:42] <+BrentNewhall> (done)
[19:42] <~Dan> Hmm... So what are some of the permutations of the rules beyond what you've described?
[19:42] <+DrNate> How many pages?
[19:43] <+DrNate> How will it play with a GM and a single player?
[19:43] <+BrentNewhall> DrNate: About 25 pages.
[19:43] <+BrentNewhall> Dan: Can you expound on that question a bit?
[19:43] <+BrentNewhall> DrNate: That's a great question that gets into another aspect of the game: there's no GM.
[19:43] <~Dan> Ah... Okay, that makes more sense. I missed how small the game is.
[19:44] <+BrentNewhall> There are two player roles, Navigator and Driver, that do much of what's needed for GMing.
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[19:44] <~Dan> I was assuming there had to be much more to the rules.
[19:44] <+BrentNewhall> I ran a 2-player game of Whispering Road a couple of months ago that might have been my favorite play of the system.
[19:45] <+BrentNewhall> It lets 2 players collaborate and bounce off each other, and both of them can play heroes, while they're also keeping the story moving forward.
[19:45] <+BrentNewhall> Dan: Yeah, this is more of a story game.
[19:45] <+BrentNewhall> (done)
[19:46] <+BrentNewhall> Indeed, the 5-act structure normally takes 1-2 sessions, though the game's designs so that you can ignore that and play for as long as you want.
[19:46] <+BrentNewhall> 'designed
[19:46] <+DrNate> I agree with you wholeheartedly that kickstarter shouldn't be used as a pre-order system, because would be publishers can't be trusted! You know who you are, people I'm givingthe evil eye to!
[19:47] <~Dan> Can you give a quick example of how play works without a GM?
[19:47] <+DrNate> What happens after the 5 act structure? Make new characters and setting? or Make a sequel with the same characters?
[19:47] <+BrentNewhall> Dan: Okay, let's pretend you and I are playing.
[19:48] <+BrentNewhall> We'll say you're the Driver, which means you're responsible for ensuring that we're always challenged in some way.
[19:49] <+BrentNewhall> I'm the Navigator, which means I'm keeping the current Act in mind and figuring out the nature of conflicts.
[19:49] <+BrentNewhall> (Each act has its own set of questions that should be addressed at some point in that Act. Those questions are what the Navigator is keeping in mind.)
[19:50] <+DrNate> The questions are pre-determined by the rules or someone come up with them as they go?
[19:50] <+BrentNewhall> We're students at a magical academy, and after exploring, we've fallen through a portal into a jungle world.
[19:50] <+BrentNewhall> DrNate: The questions are written in the rules, though they're flexible. They're there as guides to the Act's place in the story.
[19:51] <+BrentNewhall> So we're in Act 1, The New World. The questions for this Act are: "How is the new world different from the normal world? How does the new world operate? What are its rules?"
[19:51] <+BrentNewhall> So I'd probably ask, "OK, so we're in this jungle world. What makes it different?"
[19:51] <+BrentNewhall> Dan: Go ahead and come up with something. :-)
[19:52] <+BrentNewhall> "I mean, it's a jungle world, but we've seen jungles."
[19:52] <~Dan> Um... All of the plants are intelligent.
[19:52] <+BrentNewhall> Nice!
[19:52] <+DrNate> Also blue
[19:53] <+BrentNewhall> DrNate: Ooooh, I like that.
[19:53] <~Dan> Why are they sad?
[19:53] <+BrentNewhall> So, do you think they're friendly or antagonistic?
[19:53] <+BrentNewhall> Ooooh! Maybe I'll ask them.
[19:53] <+FASA-Andrew> What trait will you tap to talk to the plants?
[19:53] <+BrentNewhall> I walk up to one of them and say, "Hello, trees! You look sad."
[19:53] <+DrNate> probably some are jerks.
[19:54] <+BrentNewhall> FASA-Andrew: That's a great point; let's define these characters' needs.
[19:54] <+BrentNewhall> Let's say I'm a shy kid who wants to make friends, but my best friend is always the first to talk.
[19:55] <+BrentNewhall> And Dan wants to show that he's the smartest kid in school (which he is), but being around me makes him look weird.
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[19:55] <~Dan> (Howdy, newsalor!)
[19:55] <+BrentNewhall> Now, Dan could just start talking as the trees. He's the Driver, so he's the one making sure that we're never far away from conflict.
[19:56] <+BrentNewhall> So it's up to him to decide what the trees do. Similarly, for me as the Navigator, if Dan's trying something I'm figuring out how to make that answer the Act's questions.
[19:56] <+BrentNewhall> Does that make sense?
[19:57] <~Dan> I think so, yup.
[19:57] <+BrentNewhall> So we might not have a conflict just yet, or we could decide that our needs are really in jeopardy.
[19:57] <+BrentNewhall> This might be raising another question: why would you ever need to roll?
[19:58] <+BrentNewhall> Lemme explain that. :-)
[19:58] <+BrentNewhall> When you tap traits to satisfy your own needs, the result of your roll is added to your "bad karma" total.
[19:58] <+BrentNewhall> When you tap traits to help satisfy someone else's need, the result of your roll is added to your "good karma" total.
[19:59] <+BrentNewhall> At the end of the game, if your bad karma outweighs your good karma, you cannot leave the new world and return home.
[19:59] <+BrentNewhall> There's a range of results depending on the difference in karma.
[19:59] <+BrentNewhall> (done)
[20:00] <+BrentNewhall> DrNate: To answer your question: Well, the 5-act structure mimics a movie. At the end of that, your characters return home (or are stuck in the new world).
[20:00] <~Dan> How long does a typical session last?
[20:00] <+BrentNewhall> So it's designed more for that sequel approach for long-form play. A lot like, say, the Magic Tree House series.
[20:01] <+BrentNewhall> Dan: With a completely new set of players, it can run as long as 6 hours (so, 2 sessions). I'm used to the rules, and I frequently run a shortened 3-act game in 2 hours.
[20:02] <+BrentNewhall> Each act ends after each character's need has been involved in at least one conflict in that act. But you don't have to move on to the next act at that point.
[20:02] <+FASA-Andrew> Heh. Our Earthdawn campaign runs in 8 hour sessions every other week, so we could rip through a game of Whispering Road in one session.
[20:03] <+FASA-Andrew> Who tracks whether the needs have been involved i the act, the Navigator or the Driver?
[20:03] <+BrentNewhall> So if you're deep into some plot, you can keep going in the same act for as long as you want.
[20:03] <~Dan> Do you think the game is suitable for long-term play?
[20:03] <+BrentNewhall> FASA-Andrew: Ha! Yeah, one of the goals was to keep this quick enough that the average group can at least get in most of a game in one session.
[20:03] <+BrentNewhall> FASA-Andrew: That's a Navigator job, yeah.
[20:04] <+BrentNewhall> Dan: I think it'd work nicely for long-form play, but that's not a primary design goal.
[20:05] <+BrentNewhall> I think it'd be great to mimic those great kids' book series, where the characters are basically the same, but might have different needs or slightly different traits each time.
[20:06] <+FASA-Andrew> I could see doing Narnia, or the Three Investigators, or the Hardy Boys...
[20:06] <+BrentNewhall> The game definitely works if the heroes are all friends, and the New World is just camp, or a trip to the mountains, or whatever.
[20:06] <+BrentNewhall> FASA-Andrew: Totally!
[20:06] <+BrentNewhall> The New World can be a friend coming to the players with a mystery.
[20:07] <+xyphoid_> Famous Five time
[20:07] <+FASA-Andrew> It would be good to see a couple of Miyazaki-inspired settings in a supplement. Whisper of the Heart, for example - you could show how the story breaks down into the five acts, and the traits and needs of the main characters.
[20:07] <+BrentNewhall> Ah, yeah, so that was an earlier question I missed. My apologies.
[20:07] <+BrentNewhall> I'm leery of talking about Ghibli films directly, because of licensing issues.
[20:08] <+BrentNewhall> That said, it's a great idea, and I might put something like that on the web page as a form of criticism/analysis rather than a game supplement.
[20:09] <+BrentNewhall> Interestingly, I found this flexibility with one of my earlier games, DROP, which also uses a 5-act story structure, in that case to tell a story of survival horror.
[20:09] <+BrentNewhall> science fiction survival horror, specifically.
[20:09] <+BrentNewhall> When I playtested it, I found groups immediately stretching it to do, for example, one game in the Firefly universe.
[20:09] <+FASA-Andrew> Are you planning on putting out a pregenerated story, with the acts laid out and pregen characters, as a demo maybe?
[20:10] <+Canageek> "Hey dude! I just sloshed six tons of yak diarrhea and radioactive byproducts all over your front yard!"
[20:10] <+Canageek> "WHY DID YOU DO THIS TO ME YOU *** ****** ****#ing ****?!?!"
[20:10] <+Canageek> "Hrmph. I have to say, I am greatly bothered by your most unscholarly criticism of my work."
[20:10] <+Canageek> From (Link:
[20:10] <+BrentNewhall> Canageek: Um, sorry, I don't follow.
[20:10] <+BrentNewhall> FASA-Andrew: Good question! The rule set will come with 4 sample characters and a play sample that'll include the players going through the prologue and the first act.
[20:10] <+Canageek> BrentNewhall: one of the people who wrote FATAL was annoyed the critisisms of it were not "scholarly"
[20:11] <+MonkofLords> ....Is the Q&A over?
[20:11] <+Canageek> Oh shoot, I didn't releaize there was an interivew
[20:11] <+Canageek> Very sorry
[20:11] <~Dan> (No, it is not. :) )
[20:11] <+BrentNewhall> heh, NP. Just confused there for a second. :-)
[20:11] <+Canageek> (Flees to #RPGNET2, so sorry)
[20:12] <+BrentNewhall> I've also copied the rules for each act onto its own page.
[20:12] <+BrentNewhall> So the Navigator can open the book to the page for Act 1, and have all the questions, rules, and such for Act 1 right there.
[20:12] <+FASA-Andrew> That's a good idea. Players can then copy the pages so that the Navigator and Driver can both have the rules for the act in front of them.
[20:12] <+BrentNewhall> FASA-Andrew: Exactly!
[20:13] <+BrentNewhall> I hate flipping between rule book pages during play. :-)
[20:13] <+BrentNewhall> And especially for a game of this size, one can easily condense things down.
[20:15] <+BrentNewhall> (done)
[20:15] <~Dan> What are your thoughts on the interchangeability (if that's a word) of traditional RPGs and storygames?
[20:16] <+BrentNewhall> Dan: Hmmmm. Can you unpack that?
[20:16] * ~Dan thinks of how best to phrase the question...
[20:16] <+BrentNewhall> I don't think traditional RPGs and storygames can be swapped 1-for-1, if that's what you mean. :-)
[20:17] <~Dan> Well... Some people seem to be of the opinion that they are synonymous, period, end of story. Others draw a bright line between the two. (more)
[20:17] <~Dan> Me, I see it as a question of the degree to which someone would be disappointed if you told them that you were going to run an RPG and presented a storygame, for example.
[20:18] <+BrentNewhall> BTW,  can also talk about some of the other games I've released: DROP, Dungeon Raiders (OD&D in 4 pages), Dungeon Delvers (OSR game on one page), Steel & Flame (Barbarians of Lemuria crossed with Fudge), and some of my other, weirder games in development.
[20:18] <+BrentNewhall> Dan: Hmmmmmm.
[20:18] <+BrentNewhall> Excellent question.
[20:18] <+BrentNewhall> On the one hand, I think you can tell a great story within just about any system.
[20:19] * ~Dan nods
[20:19] <+BrentNewhall> On the other hand, I think each system supports and encourages certain behaviors with its choice of mechanics, stats, and rules.
[20:20] <+BrentNewhall> And that can go to extremes. I wouldn't want to run a dungeon delve with Everyone Is John, Dread, or Houses of the Blooded.
[20:21] <+BrentNewhall> I do think the term "storygame" provides a useful distinction from traditional RPGs.
[20:21] * ~Dan nods
[20:21] <~Dan> I greatly admire that point of view, to be honest.
[20:21] <+BrentNewhall> Traditional RPGs try to cover a lot of ground with their mechanics, while storygames tend to focus on very specific genres and effects.
[20:21] <+FASA-Andrew> I've seen an upsurge in storygame type systems in the last few years, which as a storyteller makes me very happy
[20:22] <+BrentNewhall> Thanks. I think they're basically two ends of the same spectrum.
[20:22] <~Dan> Yeah, I see them as different but related activities.
[20:22] <+BrentNewhall> FASA-Andrew: Yeah, there are a lot of them now. And I'm seeing more of them at cons, too.
[20:23] <+BrentNewhall> That's one of the coolest developments, to me. I don't ever expect story games to overtake cons, but it's great to see a significant percentage of a con's game roster filled with story games, and that have players.
[20:23] <+FASA-Andrew> I like that Whispering Road is focused on the character's needs as the driving force, rather than accumulating XPs
[20:23] <+BrentNewhall> errr, I don't ever expect story games to overwhelm cons.
[20:24] <+BrentNewhall> FASA-Andrew: Thanks! Yeah, and that came out of my thinking about Ghibli films.
[20:24] <+xyphoid_> they've totally overwhelmed the cons around here just because they generally have way less mechanical prereqs
[20:24] <+BrentNewhall> Kiki doesn't become a more powerful witch.
[20:25] <+FASA-Andrew> DO you talk about the types of stories? Kiki, for example, is a Loss and Recovery story, where the main character loses her self confidence and then regains it
[20:25] <+BrentNewhall> And increased power is only interesting if it's matched with more interesting threats (see the original Star Wars trilogy).
[20:25] <&Silverlion> Sounds like an awesome game :D
[20:26] <+FASA-Andrew> I think "themes" is the word I was looking for there
[20:26] <+BrentNewhall> (Luke becomes more powerful, and suddenly he's not facing storm troopers, he's facing Darth Vader. Then he's facing his *father*.)
[20:26] <+BrentNewhall> FASA-Andrew: Good idea! I don't, actually, and that's also partly because I don't want to give the players too many ideas, in a way.
[20:27] <+BrentNewhall> I've found really awesome stories evolve when players have just enough structure to spark their imaginations.
[20:28] <+BrentNewhall> I fear if I give them 5 story themes, they'll sit down and subconsciously decide "Okay, we're going to re-tell this movie"
[20:28] <+BrentNewhall> That may be unfounded, though. :-)
[20:28] <+FASA-Andrew> Yeah, a certain amount of example play and suggested themes might be useful guidance
[20:29] <+BrentNewhall> DROP was a single double-sided page, so I had no space to push people in any direction. :-)
[20:29] <+FASA-Andrew> Also pointing out that fantasy elements aren't required - Kiki has the whole Witch thing going, and Totoro has the spirit world, but Whisper of the Heart has no fantasy element at all
[20:29] <+BrentNewhall> Silverlion: Thanks!
[20:29] <+BrentNewhall> FASA-Andrew: Right, totally.
[20:30] <+FASA-Andrew> Sorry, that wasn't actually a question, was it...
[20:30] <+BrentNewhall> Porco Rosso has no fantasy besides Porco's face.
[20:30] <+BrentNewhall> Heck, look at Poppy Hill.
[20:30] <+BrentNewhall> Though that's more shoujo high school romance, of course. :-)
[20:31] <+FASA-Andrew> What would you say Porco's driving need was?
[20:31] <+BrentNewhall> (Which is another game I'm developing, actually: a game to mimic high school angst and romance.)
[20:31] <+FASA-Andrew> (oooer, Koko Wa Greenwood storygame)
[20:32] <+BrentNewhall> FASA-Andrew: To live on his own terms, I think.
[20:32] <+BrentNewhall> One thing I try to remind players is that their need may not be achievable. :-D
[20:33] <+BrentNewhall> FASA-Andrew: I need to read/watch Greenwood.
[20:33] <+BrentNewhall> Any other questions?
[20:34] <+BrentNewhall> Lemme ask you all a question, then. :-)
[20:34] <~Dan> Would you like to say a bit about your other projects?
[20:34] <~Dan> Oh, go ahead! :)
[20:34] <+BrentNewhall> What's your favorite mechanic that drives a specific role-playing behavior?
[20:35] <+FASA-Andrew> Oh. Wow. Greenwood is one of my all time favorites. "I need to get through my first year at school, despite my older brother being the school doctor and having married the woman I was in love with"
[20:35] <+BrentNewhall> That is, something that encourages you or another player to play out your characters' personality.
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[20:35] <~Dan> Drama Points in Buffy and related games, and similar mechanics in other games.
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[20:36] <+BrentNewhall> FASA-Andrew: Oooooh, interesting.
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[20:36] <+BrentNewhall> While y'all are formulating that, I'll answer Dan's question. :-)
[20:37] <+BrentNewhall> I have several other RPGs in development (plus board and card games).
[20:38] <+BrentNewhall> Blood Rites is a dark fantasy game of savagery and blood magic. The players are all naked "savages" living in small villages in the jungle, and are found to be able to cast blood magic, which freaks out the villagers. You're all ejected and have to survive in a wilderness full of dinosaurs and man-eating plants, while learning a magic system that *requires*
[20:38] <+BrentNewhall> blood (your own or an innocent's).
[20:39] <+BrentNewhall> That one's Fudge-based.
[20:39] <+BrentNewhall> Dance of the Leash is a game of nobles in a decadent court. Each noble has a leashed god that they can call upon at will, and their stats reflect their position at court.
[20:40] <+BrentNewhall> A Fantastic Journey to Mars is very much a story game, not unlike Whispering Road, but in the Jules Verne mold of Victorian adventurers.
[20:41] <+BrentNewhall> High School Hearts is the previously mentioned game of high school drama. You bid playing cards to represent conflict, and both suits and point values indicate how relationships change.
[20:41] <+BrentNewhall> (The first playtest of that was SO MUCH FUN.)
[20:41] <+BrentNewhall> (And brought up REALLY bittersweet memories in all of us.) ;-)
[20:42] <~Dan> :)
[20:42] <+BrentNewhall> And Serial Experiment Jump is my most experimental game: a diceless game of time travel, where you trade in tokens to gain control over a scene.
[20:43] <+BrentNewhall> Blood Rites is my "strong reaction against this one thing in D&D" heartbreaker, and Serial Experiment Jump is my Amber heartbreaker. :-)
[20:43] <~Dan> :)
[20:44] <+BrentNewhall> Have I sufficiently driven everyone away?
[20:44] <+Yog_Sothoth> Yes
[20:45] <+FASA-Andrew> heh
[20:45] <+BrentNewhall> Apparently. :-)
[20:45] <~Dan> You mentioned DROP. What is that?
[20:45] <~Dan> (Don't just be a name DROPper.
[20:45] <+BrentNewhall> Dan: So DROP is a very simple story game of survival horror.
[20:45] <+Yog_Sothoth> What do you all think of the academic study of the pen and paper rpg world?
[20:45] <+BrentNewhall> The players are all crewmembers on a starship that arrives at a planet in trouble, and must drop to the surface, explore some large structure, then run like hell.
[20:46] <+BrentNewhall> It's divided into five phases, and in each phase you choose an Unknown from a list. These are mysterious story elements you will all introduce during this phase.
[20:47] <+BrentNewhall> So you start with the Preparation phase, where the players are all deciding on characters and such. Unknown might be the planet you arrive at, the exact nature of the ship you're on, something about the crew, or something about the emergency call.
[20:48] <+BrentNewhall> As each player goes around and introduces his/her character, someone has to introduce this Unknown ("I'm getting a weird distress signal...but it's only repeating two words: GO AWAY")
[20:49] <~Dan> Huh. Cool.
[20:49] <+BrentNewhall> Each player gets one scene in each phase, at the end of which the player rolls a die. If it rolls <= the current phase's number, the next player adds "but..." and a complication to that player's scene.
[20:50] <+BrentNewhall> So in the first phase, you get full control if you roll 2-6. At subsequent phases, there are increasing odds that the next player gets to complicate your scene.
[20:50] <+BrentNewhall> And each phase has its own Unknowns. By the end it's pretty obvious what the Big Scary Problem is, and everyone can play it out to the conclusion.
[20:50] <+BrentNewhall> A full game takes about 2 hours.
[20:51] <+BrentNewhall> Well, 2-3
[20:51] <+BrentNewhall> It's a fun time-filler if you don't get a full roster of players one night.
[20:52] <~Dan> Sounds that way.
[20:52] <+BrentNewhall> Oh, and it's pay-what-you want on DriveThru. (Link:
[20:52] <+BrentNewhall> Before we wrap up, I'll plug my other major tabletop product: the OSR Handbook.
[20:53] <~Dan> Please do!
[20:53] <+BrentNewhall> It's a guide to about 2 dozen D&D retroclones, OSR systems, and other such old-school games.
[20:54] <+BrentNewhall> It describes each system in brief, and tells you how many classes races are included, number of pages in the main rules, number of monsters statted out, what the PCs stats are, and the basic mechanics.
[20:54] <+BrentNewhall> Also price, and advice for DMs and advice for players.
[20:55] <&Silverlion> Is it free?
[20:55] <+BrentNewhall> I've also been lucky enough to score interviews with several of the games' designers: Kirin Robinson of Old School Hack, James Raggi of Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Jason Morningstar of Dungeon Squad, and others.
[20:56] <+BrentNewhall> Silverlion: Nope, that one's $5. :-)
[20:56] <+BrentNewhall> Oh, and I also stat out the same 5 characters in each system.
[20:56] <+BrentNewhall> That's part of why I charge for it; I put a lot of time into that book. :-)
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[20:57] <+BrentNewhall> I have a new edition coming out in the next few months with a few more systems (1 Pot, Blueholme, and a few others). Whenever you buy, you get all future editions for free.
[20:57] <~Dan> Very nice!
[20:57] <+BrentNewhall> Thanks! Any other questions?
[20:57] <~Dan> None here!
[20:58] <+BrentNewhall> Well thanks very much for the chance to do this! It's been a pleasure.
[20:58] <+FASA-Andrew> Brent- - thanks so very much for your time and for putting up with my commentary and lack of actual questions :) I look forward to seeing Whispering Road and wish you terrific success with it.
[20:58] <+BrentNewhall> I'll still be awake for a while and will continue to hang out for a bit.
[20:58] <+BrentNewhall> FASA-Andrew: Thanks very much for your questions and ideas!
[20:59] <~Dan> Thank you, Brent! I'll have the log posted shortly and will give you the link!
[20:59] <+BrentNewhall> Awesome, thanks!

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