Big games

I’ve been a bit quiet here lately, Intrepid’s out, doing well and doesn’t have any news to speak of, while London 2051 has been stuck in a creative rut it’s only now starting to climb out of.

So rather than that I thought I’d write about is another project of mine ‘Athesia Reborn’ a game ran twice annually for the Essex University Roleplay Game Society. It’s been running for 7 years, usually hosts ~25 players, lasts from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon and has recently transitioned from using D&D 4E to a system of our own devising.

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Quick Starts, Demonstration Games and Lite Rules.

I’ve just had (another) epiphany.

This is where I was before:

1) My sets of rules have AMAZING character creation rules. They are one of the USPs of my work and I want to showcase them. I always try to build in character creation as part of the games at conventions and the like.

2) I don’t like games with pregenerated characters.

3) Up until I wrote “The Comics Code” recently, I believed a convention slot needed to be 4 hours long and used to moan if conventions only gave me a 3 hour slot.

4) For various reasons, I wasn’t a big fan of the whole Pathfinder thing.

5) Because of what I got from GURPS LITE all those years ago, the “loss leader” I chose to put out for my game was a complete “basic” set of of the rules ie, the full rules without any padding.

I was recently asked to go to a convention, to demonstrate RPGs to non-RPG players (video gamers to be precise). Realising we needed a range of genres I prepared my two current games – including some pregens for Squadron UK – and downloaded some (free) Quick starts from RPGNOW.

I’ll admit I was impressed by these. A quick summary of the basic rules, a set of pregens and and introductory adventure. All of these were proper adventures which, with rushing, would easily fill and evening’s play or convention slot and – with laid back skilful Refereeing – would last much longer.

Though I’ve been running my own systems for years, I could have easily run any one of these at the convention. In fact, I did rush through one – the classic Call of Cthulu quick start – for couple of computer Geeks. They seemed to like it and I enjoyed it.

I’m now a quick start convert. You could download a load of these freebies and play them all one after the other for months of adventuring before settling down and choosing the system you wanted to buy.

There’s something else I’ve realised. If you want to explain your rules quickly, where are most of them summarised? What’s the best prop to use? The character sheet! Pregens are actually a very quick way for people to access the rule system.

So I could probably do with creating a Quick Start for Squadron UK. My free basic rules might allow an experienced roleplayer to run my game, but it’s not going to suck any newbies in. There’s an awful lot of reading to do before you can play SqUK.

That wasn’t all I learnt at the convention, though. You see, none of the games I or the other GM at the convention had brought along were actually on sale at the convention. The only thing there was the Pathfinder starter set so we were asked to run the demonstration adventures out of that.

Pathfinder! Urgh!

Despite our lack of recent experience, and lack of rules – we were loaned pregens, figures and the scenarios but no rulebooks – we felt able to busk it. It’s only d20 after all and all the players were newbies.

But there was something else….

These demonstration scenarios are designed to last 45mins to an hour. ONE hour! Basically they were a bit of background followed by one room/encounter. A puzzle and a clutch of monsters. Upon reading them I was pretty dismissive, I’ll admit.

But then we ran them. For the most part players totally new to the game (with an average age of below 20 I’d estimate) with, it must be said, two pretty bloody good, experienced, referees determined to wring the best out of the scenarios. The way we ran them they were closer to an hour to 75 mins but everyone enjoyed them and they were great fun!

Hats off to Paizo. They’ve got this really nicely judged. The Pathfinder starter set is a very superior product at a very reasonable price. If I was recommending people into the Pathfinder hobby (which I won’t) I’d have no hesitation in suggesting they start by buying it.

But now I think of conventions where you’ve got a trade stand and people want a quick demo of the game. I’m almost certainly going to have to have a one hour Quick Start for both my games ready for Dragonmeet.

So my attitudes have changed. If you’re writing a game for publication and sale, I’d now recommend:

1) DON’T give away your whole game. I never bought a single GURPS product after picking up GURPS LITE for free.

2) DO give away a Quick Start. Download some free ones from RPGNOW to see how it’s done. (I found Dragon Age to be particularly accessible.)

3) DO prepare a one hour (or less) quick demo for when you’re selling the game at conventions. I don’t know if you can download the Pathfinder ones from their web-site. If not, I don’t know where to point you for an example. When I write mine, I’ll post it here.

indyhippo design lab

Hi all. I’ve set up a community to workshop my games in the full glare of the G+ spotlight, and I’d like to invite folks to join me there, especially those who are also producing their own games (although I’m happy to hear from anyone interested in RPG design in general). Please join me in my design lab to kick ideas around, and generally chat games and gaming. Link here.

A Word From The Atomic Wastelands

Bounty Hunter of the Atomic Wastelands (BHAW) has been out for 3 months now,  to the day. In this time it’s been downloaded just over 250 times, so I’m pretty sure it’s not just friends and family who are checking it out. I have no idea whether any of these 250 downloaders have actually read let alone played the game . I’d like to think so but then I myself have got a few games I bought in November I haven’t  got round to yet, it’s just in the nature of things.

I do have further plans for BHAW but I’ll admit that there is a certain lack of urgency behind them. I put myself under a lot of pressure to finish the game and meet my self-imposed deadline. Now that this has been done I’m been feeling a lot relaxed about things.

The one thing I really want to do is to arrange for a limited print run of the book for just me and my friends, so I guess mentioning it here is a bit of a tease.  Sadly this isn’t quite a simple as sending the existing pdf to the printers as the document has to match the exact technical specifications for colour reproduction and there is a bit of a learning curve. This is a project I am committed to. It will happen.


Of more general interest perhaps, I have a couple adventures of BHAW I’ve written I’d plan to release. I just need to tidy up the text and possibly draw a few new pictures. BHAW makes for a great pick up game, a few canned adventures would only increase its usefulness in that role. I am reasonably confident I will get round to this eventually, it’s the sort of thing I can do with just a few afternoons here and there.

I am less confident about the next two BHAW related projects as they both represent a much larger commitment. This first is a source book for Big Fallout City which introduces a mini-game for the exploration of post-apocalyptic ruins. I’d originally planned to include this core rulebook but I ran out of time. The rules are already there, we used them in out campaign they just aren’t in a fit state to share and I figure making them presentable is a lot of work.

The other ‘maybe some day’ project is an expansion for the vehicle combat rules. BHAW already contains a perfectly good vehicle combat rules. The thing is when I run it for my group it also comes with a whole bunch of visual props in the form of vehicle tokens and a road template that really  jazz up this aspect of the game. Unfortunately these images for these props aren’t mine to share so I’d have to redo all the art myself and that’s a biggie. For starters I’d have to learn how to even draw cars!

I’d also like to introduce more variety in the type of vehicles and make generating road encounters even faster. That’s would be all brand new content, it’d need to think up and then test.  I can’t see that happening any time soon.

Also I may give Mutant Bikers of the Atomic Wastelands a little face lift. I posted about MBAW on this blog just because its historical link to BHAW. That, some 15+ years later, it still gets a handful of downloads each months makes me smile. I don’t plan to revise the text but pdf it comes in is pretty terrible. It deserves better.