Mastering Fear and Starting Over
If there is anything I’ve learned from my time spent with masters of this craft, it’s that sometimes you have to admit a design doesn’t work, and to start over. And that’s where I have been with Mythender for some time now. (And as such, this post might not make much sense of you don’t know what I’m talking about regarding Mythender’s mechanics.)
I’ve learned a lot making a 150-dice game with a complex, building currency. I’ve learned that I can make a fun game with that, a game people like to play…if I’m the one bringing the materials, teaching how the game works, and running the game. People will give a design some leeway when playing in a game with him or her that they wouldn’t otherwise, and so I ran a few dozen Really Fun Games of Mythender.
I’ll admit that I’ve been afraid of the flaws in the game, enough to where I didn’t really want to write it — I didn’t want to put effort into it. And these flaws aren’t necessarily with whether the design works (though there are a couple points I haven’t yet solved), but whether the design is accessible. Here’s what’s in my Mythender kit.
That’s a slightly old picture. At last count, I have around:
- 50 white dice
- 30 red dice (though, really, I only need 10 for Mythender. The rest are for Don’t Rest Your Head)
- 100 or so black/blue dice
- 50+ metal coins
- 50+ little gems, 10 large gems
- two massive stone dice
Because that’s how the economy works. And at a game that I’m running, it works pretty well. But not well enough. It’s rough to teach. And, frankly, it’s a hell of a burden to place on someone I’m asking to play the game. So, right now, I’m putting it aside and looking at other ways of doing what I want.
What I Want Out Of My Game
What Mythender currently does well, which I need to keep doing: (1) tactile reinforcement of play, whether you’re increasing in power or being hit; (2) constantly presenting the choice of risking your soul for desperately-needed power. The die game did this well, which is why I kept it. As you continued having actions, your die pool grew bigger and bigger, thus you holding a physical sense of power in your hand.
That power was also your hit points, so to speak, so when you were hit, you lost dice — creating the feeling of actually being hit. Over the last few years, people have loved the shit out of that. It’s tapped into the lizard brain and motivated like I haven’t seen in other fighty games.
And the deck is initially stacked against the Mythenders in a fight, since they aren’t on home turf, so the decision to risk your soul to get a little more power is a very real one, one that I see come up in every game. So whatever new mechanic I make will have to do all that that well.
It’ll also have to be easier to handle and easier to teach. Throwing away the old economy (which I might later blog about) for something more immediate is the first step. And there are different ways to handle a sense of growth other than massively large die pools.
Putting Aside Doesn’t Mean Throwing Away
Granted, a learned a lot from playing with this game for the past few years. Those lessons stay with me. And the ideas in the design are worth keeping around, to mine for other games. So while it might emotionally feel like I’ve wasted years, I have got something to show for that.
Thing is, there’s no guarantee whatever I’ll make will do what I like out of the old “millions of dice forevar!” mechanic. Or will be worth my time. Or…well, a number of other little fears that gnaw at me enough to stick to the devil I know. It takes balls to say “okay, do over!” and stick to that, especially when you’ve been public for a number of years.
Fear keeps us in decisions we don’t like, because we are unsure of it being better. But in a creative pursuit, that’s bullshit — it’s not like we’re murdering our old idea babies. We can always go back to them. So why do we fear? Because we’re afraid to fail — even though it’s by failing and learning that we become better at our craft.
And yes, I’ll actually explain the old Mythender mechanic later, for those who are only able to follow along in the abstract. One topic at a time. :)