Posts Tagged ‘josh roby’
Today, I want to talk with you about Josh Roby’s latest Kickstarter, the Vicious Crucible of Villa Argentate.
He’s doing something with Kickstarter that’s a bit different than most: he treats it like the Ransom Model, looking to collect a certain amount in order to make the game free for all. He’s done that with the previous Vicious Crucibles, which you can check out right now: The Vicious Crucible of Verdigris Valley and The Vicious Crucible of the Eburnean Tower.
The design premise is refreshing: the core rules take up four pages, with a layout designed to be printed front-to-back. Rules modules get two pages, and each new Vicious Crucible comes with a new module. Verdigris Valley came with Combat, Eburnean Tower came with Sorcery, and as far as Villa Argentate…well, that depends on the backers. Because among other things you’ll get in the Kickstarter, you’ll get to vote on which rules you’d like to see Josh develop:
The character of the Silver City will determine which rulesheet gets used with it. If the vote goes to the scheming and dealing, the Influence rulesheet will be included. If the backers want the underworld, the Theivery rulesheet will ship. And if you fine folk want to see artisans, well then, you’ll be served up a hot cup of Crafting rulesheet.
Each rules module works with the other Vicious Crucibles. I love these games, because they take a Lady Blackbird approach to situation design and with a die system reminiscent (but lighter than) Cortex Plus. Each has a set number of six possible protagonist characters, a few NPCs with agendas, some opening scenes, and useful descriptions of places.
If you’ve played the Smallville RPG, this will feel familiar…because Josh designed Smallville.
So if this sounds remotely up your alley, check out the free stuff. And if you like supporting people making small, interesting games and releasing them for free, back the campaign. If nothing else, check out the page and see what he’s got planned — since it’s reached funding, it’s gonna happen!
Void Vultures is a pick-up-and-play science fiction roleplaying game in which you play “salvage experts” picking apart dangerous derelict space stations to keep your home township alive. Play is quick, fun, and light; you can clear a derelict in an hour or two, or take on a behemoth over the course of a few hours.
This started as a joke on Twitter, or IM, I can’t remember. It’s powered by “Rülsleit”, this idea we shot around about a quick-to-resolve system with a tongue-in-cheek feel. Then the document passing went back and forth. If you’ve already backed it, you’ll see that my name is on the in-development document. That’s because I’m the other half of this project: its instigator & editor.
If you read my post recently about the sort of games I want to make, this is pretty much it: light, 24 pages, it’s ready to roll. Well, it’s two 24 page books — the main book with all the rules, and a companion book with all sorts of derelicts in the void to salvage.
If this sort of thing piques your interest, for a mere $5 you can check out the PDF of the main book, Rüls of the Void, right now. We’re still doing the final touches on it, and while we’re getting the art & working on Derelicts of the Void — the point of the Kickstarter funding — we’ll take your playtest feedback into the process
Now we’re pretty close to hitting our goal of $750. I know what happens next once we break past that, and I’m all a-tingle about it.
Looks like we made it! Which means we’re going bigger… Here’s Josh’s update:
The Void Vultures kickstarter has reached its initial goal of $750! We’ll be able to get some awesome art from awesome artists (details coming soon) and make both Rüls of the Void and Derelicts of the Void into great PDFs.
But if we can get the kickstarter to go further, we’ll make Rüls and Derelicts even better… we’ll make them free.
If this kickstarter hits $1500, both Rüls of the Void and Derelicts of the Void will be fully ransomed, freely downloadable to the world.
But wait, you might be thinking, if the game becomes free, what have I bought, then? Never fear, our loyal, generous, and very appreciated backers: we’ve got something special right here, just for you.
At the next threshold, we’ll create Horrors of the Void, a second expansion exclusively for Void Vultures’ backers. This expansion will invade your brain with 24 more pages of off-the-hook options for your salvage experts themselves and the terrible threats they face. Play void vultures with mind-bending Psi powers or augmented with powerful Cyber. Confront the treacherous Void Syndicate or quail before the New Solar Order.
And the best part? All that good stuff will only be available to backers like you and those lucky gamers who play with you. How’s that for a perk?
So prod your friends to check out Void Vultures. Post, tweet, status-update, and whatever else so that we can push this thing to the stars.
Thank you for all your support! We wouldn’t have made it this far without you.
So, yeah, you want to see Josh & I get our Space Horror on? Yeah you do. Swing on by & help us out!
(And don’t think that’s all we have planned. We’ll see what happens once we get to $1500, if we do.)
 HAHAHAHAHAHA aren’t we clever[1a]
[1a] Dear god, I hope we are. Hold me, Marge.
Last night, Josh Roby and I ended up spontaneously podcasting with the ever-charming Tim Rodriguez of the fine podcast Dice + Food + Lodging. Josh and I talked about playtesting — how we go about it, what we’re looking for, pitfalls we’ve dealt with, and lessons we’ve learned.
The episode. It’s 25 minutes long. Josh was on shortly before recording a game we’re designing, Atlantis Risen, and I stopped partway through my commute in order to talk. (If you’re curious where I recorded from, outside The Ferry Building in San Francisco [image]. It’s the stop between the first and second third of my commute home.)
Was a good talk, even if I ended up talking more than Josh. He and I have very different environments: he has a dedicated playtest group that is trained the way people who do writing or art critiques are trained. I travel to conventions and constantly playtest with new people. Both are awesome, as they generate different experiences and feedback.
Apologies for the lack of Fate content. I have one more bullet point, though I’m unlikely to blog tomorrow, as I’m going on an Origins-methadone vacation. :) But that’s what next week is for!
 Which has no website yet.
Josh Roby & I have been tinkering with ideas for some time now, between exchanging notes about our work on the Smallville RPG he designed and the Leverage RPG I was editing, working on small-form games like our Vicious Crucible project (which sorely needs an update), and some other ambitious ideas we keep talking about (like the Atlantis Risen project I mentioned while at Gamex). As with any partnership, we’ve started talking in partner-speak and form partner-thoughts. One that drives our designs, individually and together, can be summed up as:
Role-playing games are driven by a die shtick and a coin trick.
This shouldn’t be taken as a universal, but it’s how we think about the games we design and the games we engage with. We look at where the die shticks are, where the coin tricks are, and how they intersect.
And when we see a game that doesn’t have one of those to, that also makes us think. (Like how A Penny For My Thoughts has no die shtick.)
The die shtick
The “die shtick” is about some sort of trick or gimmick used to make rolling dice interesting, compelling, desired, or something else beyond a passive throw.
- In Cortex Plus (Smallville, Leverage), there’s the gathering of polyhedrals based on what you’re doing, reinforcing your actions & the fiction. And 1s on rolls trigger interesting situations.
- In Fate, the number of shifts you get beyond the target needed can be spent to achieve other effects. Notably in combat, they do Stress, but you can also use them to make your task happen faster — I love the Time chart — or improve quality or in some cases create additional aspects.
- In Dragon Age Tabletop RPG, the Dragon Die can give you Stunt Points to do additional effects, if between the three dice you roll you get doubles. (I really dig on this mechanic. It’s like critical successes taken to a new level.)
- In In Nomine, getting triple 1s means a “Divine Intervention” and triple 6s means “Infernal Intervention.” A crit success/failure that depends on what you’re doing.
A “card shtick” can stand in for a “die shitck,” as with Primetime Adventures.
The coin trick
Sometimes this is a long-standing economy, and other times it’s a way of tracking state and flow. Whatever it is, the handing back and forth of a token for whatever reason (even if it’s not physically done, just on paper), is what Josh & I call a “coin trick.”
- Fate’s Fate Points & Cortex Plus’ Plot Points are about a currency gained from complicating your current situation, spent to be more badass or power special effects later on. (This is probably the most common form of coin trick I’ve seen, though there are many variations on the theme. I particularly like Smallville’s Earns in Distinctions.)
- A Penny For My Thoughts is built upon a coin trick. The coins you have determine the length of your story at the moment, and the handing of it says which direction it will go.
- Primetime Adventures’ fan mail, coins spent by the Producer to fuel a high challenge, rewarded to the players by each other for moments they enjoy in the show, is a pretty potent one. A small-form game I was tinkering with a bit ago, Five Furious Fists of Tiamat, used fan mail. I was happy with the result.
- I waffle on whether I’d count interesting XP gain systems as a coin trick. But games like The Shadow of Yesterday/Solar System or Apocalypse World do have some neat ways of gaining XP that might count. There’s much less of a flow there, and more simple pure-motivation, but it’s a far cry from nothing. Right now, I would count them.
Games without coin tricks feel pretty dated to me. New ones that lack it have that sense of “going back to old school.” It’s also helped me understand why certain games bore me–there’s no coin trick to help drive my interest.
[Edit] Which is, as I realize after reading Daniel’s comment below, is the point. The coin tricks I see are those that push character & player motivations. The die shticks that I see are those that give depth the a moment of randomness, so that it’s not just a binary pass/fail at once.
Now, this is not a universal, “have this or your game sucks” philosophy. But it’s what Josh & I look for in our own designs and when unpacking games we’ve played. What do you look for?
 Which until today we’ve called a “die trick,” but I feel “die shtick” fits better.
I used to delay getting lunch. I would think about what I wanted for lunch, and hem & haw over the decision. I would wait a good couple hours after I should have eaten to eat, making those couple hours crappy and not very productive. Then I’d eat.
And I discovered that it didn’t matter what I had for lunch, because a few minutes later I went back to work and didn’t think about it.
So when my phone alarm goes off to eat lunch, I just do it, making whatever and then going back to work. Dinner’s different, because I want to enjoy that. But lunch is just functional.
This blew my mind, because he made me realize that I was the same way. Today, after a brief outing to deal with my mail, I was thinking about lunch. Just getting back from DunDraCon, I had little in my home. I was thinking “hmm, chicken? or chinese? or a burger? or maybe a sandwich? or a burrito…” and was delaying eating because I was pondering options.
I remembered Josh’s wisdom, and just walked to the grocery store (which I needed to do anyway) and bought what I needed for some lunches. He’s right, I don’t really care about what I just had. Back to work. And I’m thankful for his advice, because it’s increased my happiness (as I eat sooner due to not delaying) and helped my pocketbook (as I don’t go out for lunch as much because I know the gratification is very fleeting).
It’s rare that something happens that makes your life better & happier while also costing you less, so here’s my thank-you to Josh. And my passing the thought along to others, who might also see benefit.
 Which deserves its own post, one that’ll likely compare/contrast with OrcCon in LA, the Presidents’ Day con I typically attend.