A Walk in the Dark A look in to the mind of an RPG designer

29Apr/11Off

Call for Judges

Due to my current health issues (inner ear inflammation, dizziness and vertigo, foul mood) and a major assignment at work that needs to be completed by Monday, in order to not further delay the choosing of a winner to the contest I am placing an open call out for impartial people to serve as judges.

Here's how I think this will work:

Judges: Between three and five judges who have not submitted an entry in to the contest.

Material: There isn't a lot, to be honest. I think at last count there were eight valid submissions (if you're reading this and yours is one of them, your chances are pretty good), so there isn't a lot to review.

Blind Judging: Unless it is unavoidable, I will present the entries to the judges without any indication of who is submitting it. In other words, I will open the submission in Acrobat, Word or whatever and remove your name and branding from the submission before I present it to the judges in PDF format. There may be cases I can't do this adequately (if removing branding would impact the content being judged), but I'll do my best so that the judging is as impartial as it can get.

Scoring: Unless someone out there has a better suggestion, I can't come up with a scoring system that would be acceptable, so I will ask judges to rank the top five entries in preferred order. These entries will be given a score, and the highest average score amongst all judges will be declared the winner.

Prizes: Because of this delay, I am considering selecting more than one winner. Don't quote me on that, though.

How to Apply: Email me at dflor@brainclouds.net and I'll take you in to consideration. Hopefully I will get enough people to do this in the next 24 to 48 hours.

The alternative to the above would be to wait until I can clear my mind and judge the entries myself, but with my left ear ringing, the room sometimes dipping and swaying as if I was at sea and a metric assload of work I need to finish by end of month, I can't guarantee when that will happen. I can't imagine some of you waiting long to find out if you get the prize or not.

I apologize for this inconvenience. I will plan for such things if I do such a contest in the future.

Filed under: 4e, Contest, DnD, RPG 3 Comments
27Apr/11Off

Quick Contest Update

Just wanted to let everyone know where things stood on our Heroes of Shadow contest.

Since Saturday I myself have been battling with a relapse of inner ear issues I've had since childhood, and as a result I'm getting hit quite often with massive amounts of dizziness and vertigo. So I have not been able to concentrate to the point where I can be a proper judge.

But, for what it's worth, all the contest entries have been printed and I've gone over them in the most basic of ways. I have quite a task ahead of me... Some of the entries are quite impressive, and it shows you all have put much more work than I would have thought. I even got a few Gamma World submissions, and I had to go back and check that I never mentioned what gaming system you should be using in the rules, so I'm accepting them even though that honestly wasn't my initial plan.

If I feel I cannot make a proper decision of a winner by this Friday, I will put myself on "injured reserve" and look for third party judges to make the decision on my behalf.

As a result of my delays, I'm debating whether to have more than one winner. Don't quote me on that...

-=O=-

On an unrelated note, I have published my Gamma World campaign "Fire From the Sky" through DriveThruRPG. There's also a free preview of a single encounter (link's currently broken due to technical issues on the site), if you're curious.

I'm looking for people to review it on blogs other than mine... If you're up to it let me know and I'll comp you a copy.

Filed under: Contest, RPG No Comments
25Apr/11Off

Contest and Upcoming Publications

First off, thanks to everyone who submitted their solo encounters to our Heroes of Shadow contest! As I've stated before, I had chosen to not look at any of the submissions until past the deadline, so now that that's done with I'm going to go through them and try to objectively pick a winner.

Will probably start doing that at some point tonight; hopefully I'll be able to select a winner by end of week.

-=O=-

On another note, a few weeks ago I had sent a pitch of my Gamma World module "Fire From the Sky" to the Wizards of the Coast submissions email. Today I got a pretty straight forward response...

David;

Thanks for the proposal, but we're not looking for any Gamma World material right now.

(Name of person responding redacted)

Simple enough. At least they're listening!

Now I still haven't gotten a response from the Wizards of the Coast legal department regarding compliance with the 4e GSL (see this post for more information on that), but I have decided to go ahead and publish my Gamma World module for a nominal fee through RPG Drive Thru. If they have any objections to it (and lord knows I have tried to clarify things prior to publishing it), I will simply take it down.

I will be going through final review in the coming days (there's one thing that I know I have to change due to it not working well within the Gamma World mechanic), and then will let everyone know when it's up. If you would like to review it in the meantime, let me know and I can provide a free copy.

-=O=-

Finally, Chapter One of my uber-campaign The Coming Dark - a chapter called "Homecoming" - is technically complete and pending review from third parties. I'm kind of hesitant publishing it because it flows in to subsequent chapters that don't exist yet; part of me doesn't want to publish something that people will play only to stop while I work on the next part. So we'll see when that gets out there.

Stay tuned, everyone!

David;
Thanks for the proposal, but we're not looking for any Gamma World material right now.
23Apr/11Off

Preview: The Ethereal Bard

The fiolliowing is an element from Chapter 2 of my campaign, The Coming Dark. If you are one of my players and have not reached Chapter 3, you may not want to read this.

D&D 4e has very specific rules on how certain powers affect "allies" and "enemies", but those rules always make the assumption that there are two sides to every conflict. What if there's a third party that's laying down effects that change every round?

For one of my favorites scenes in my campaign I created a thing I call the "Ethereal Bard". Imagine walking in to an inn and, instead of seeing a band on stage or a sole minstrel playing music, there's a semi-transparent illusion of a bard playing music, and that magical construct reacts to requests from patrons, plays songs according to the situation or mood in the main area, or simply plays songs at random. And, when violent action ensues, it doesn't quite know how to react to everything that's going on, so it starts to play random songs more frequently.

Furthermore, each song is similar to a bard's power, treating *everyone* within range of the music as either an ally or as a friend depending on the power.

Here is my official write-up of it:

THE ETHEREAL BARD

The “Ethereal Bard” is a magical device that appears as a humanoid musician with any number of different instruments in hand. The musician himself is an illusion, powered by the magically infused pedestal it stands upon. There is a tip jar near the pedestal at its feet that contains mixed silver and copper pieces.

The bard plays music appropriate to what is going on in the lobby, or will play a completely random song. It will also take requests, giving preference to any creature that adds coins in to its tip jar.

When combat in the lobby begins, the Ethereal Bard floods the room with inspirational music. At the start of each round, it will begin to play one random song that has a magical effect on everyone that can hear it in the lobby.

At the start of each combat round, roll a d6 against the table below to determine the effect. The effect applies to every non-deafened creatures in the lobby until the end of the round, when the device will choose another song.

1) Song of Courage: The device plays an uplifting song that includes shouts of encouragement, making it seem as if a large crowd was cheering.
Effect: Any creatures that hears the song gains a +1 power bonus to attack rolls.

2) Song of Defense: The device intones a battle hymn, bolstering your abilities to resist attack.
Effect: Any creature that hears the song gains a +1 power bonus to AC.

3) Song of Conquest: The device begins to play a bolstering song that makes everyone fight with renewed vigor.
Effect:  Any creature that hears the song and hits an enemy with an attack gains +3 THP.

4) Song of Recovery: The device begins to play an inspiring song that instills a sense of perseverance.
Effect: Any creature that hears the song gains a +2 power bonus to saving throws.

5) Savior’s Song: The device begins to play a song inspiring determination and focus, with hopeful verses of battles won despite daunting odds.
Effect: Any creature that hears the song can reroll one saving throw that he or she fails during the turn.

6) Song of Speed: The device begins to play a rousing refrain, imbuing everyone with increased speed and agility.
Effect: Any creature in earshot gains +4 power bonus to speed and can shift 1 extra square whenever he or she shifts.

I mean, just imagine it... Our heroes and the bad guys are duking it out in the lobby, upending tables and throwing chairs at each other, all the time while music from an illusionary bard plays in the background and boosts their abilities.

I considered giving this device an XP weight, but since both the allies and enemies could take advantage of it I decided not to. Just another zone effect to add to the excitement of the encounter.

So what do you think? Anyone out there used something similar?

-=O=-

On a semi-related note, Chapter 1 of my campaign is pretty much complete and being reviewed by a few people. Soon it will be released to the public, and I hope you enjoy it!

And there is a little over a day left in our contest to win "Heroes of Shadow"! Get those submissions in quick!

18Apr/11Off

Open Call for DnD-based Monopoly Design Ideas

DnD-opoly ...or Dungeonopoly ...or Dragonopoly ...or whatever we decide to call it ...It's time to actually consider it.

Today I received another email from Hasbro in which they provided the physical mailing address to their legal department and to the representative that I have to submit the concept to. They are taking this far more seriously than I had ever intended.

I must be insane thinking about this... but I can't help it! I want this game myself!

I've been doing a little more research in to this and have discovered one thing: the game of Monopoly is public domain, so if you're going to create a game of Monopoly based on anything you like, odds are Hasbro isn't going to be the one to sue you. That is, unless you cross the line and do things like using the Monopoly registered trademark, use the Uncle Pennybags artwork, or brand it with the Hasbro logo... Those are blatant copyright issues above and beyond simply taking the mechanics of the game.

So the concern here moves away from Hasbro and focuses on Wizards of the Coast. From a legal standpoint, I'm not sure what the rules are. I would look at the OGL and the 4e GSL (which prohibits "interactive products"... so it depends on whether a board game qualifies as "interactive"), but we're not planning on using the 4e mechanic on this board game. In essence, we intend to use names of places, creatures and the like... We don't want to use the game engine, we want to use those iconic elements in D&D that define the setting.

Using that type of content is most definitely a legal issue because it falls under "intellectual property". From a legal sense, it's not much different than me trying to create a campaign setting and calling it "Greyhawk" or "Blackmoor"... Wizards of the Coast would most certainly drop the legal anvil on me if I tried that. Let me put it another way: I know it already exists, but if you attempted to create a Star Wars themed Monopoly game, LucasArts would sue me in to the Stone Age.

But what's curious is that Hasbro has yet to say "hell no." They actually *want* me to submit my concept. And I'd hate to disappoint... I don't want to send them a one page summary. I want an idea of exactly what we want, so we can be well aware of the legal hurdles we will need to overcome if it ever gets that far.

There's one problem: I'm not a D&D expert! I'm great when it comes to the game mechanics, but when it comes to the history and geography surrounding the multitude of different campaign settings in the D&D universe, I'm nowhere near being knowledgeable enough to pull this off on my own.

And that's not even mentioning that I *don't* want to do this alone. This concept was born from a Twitter conversation, propagated by fans of the game. If this happens, it won't be because of me... It will be because of all of us.

So I need your help, and here are the areas I need it the most:

  • In order to make this a bankable product that lots of people can enjoy, I'm thinking - very reluctantly, mind you - that it should be mostly centered around the 4e campaign settings. Creating a version of Monopoly based on past editions - although a very cool concept for those of us that have spent decades playing - would be lost on the modern crowd.
  • I would consider pitching two versions of this game: (1) the "basic" version of the game, which uses the rules of Monopoly with zero modifications and only consists of changing the content, and (2) an "enhanced" version in which we may be able to work in some D&D themed game mechanics. The problem I have with #2 above is that doing so takes one step closer to the existing board games Wizards of the Coast already has, and the last thing I want to do is create a competing product. And I don't know how Hasbro would feel if we create a game that is close to not being Monopoly any more.
  • I don't know what to do about currency. Paper money is so un-D&D-like. I thought about using the copper/silver/gold/platinum mechanic where each tier is 10x the one before it, but it would be absurd to count off all those copper pieces during a game.
  • The game will continue to use 2d6s. I thought of 1d12, but not only does that mess up probability but you lose the "roll again on doubles" feature. For the "enhanced" version mentioned above, I'd consider including a d20 and finding some sort of use for it.
  • The biggest hurdle I have is geography...
    • Off the top of my head, I can't think of more than half a dozen cities and locations for the game board; we need twenty-two.
    • We need all the properties reasonably organized in terms of their worth; from Hommlet to Greyhawk, they must span the spectrum of being cheap to being lavish.
    • The properties should be in groups that make sense. For the record, here are the color groups on a traditional Monopoly board, from cheapest to most expensive, along with their original games in Monopoly:
      • Purple: Two properties (Mediterranean Avenue, Baltic Avenue)
      • Cyan: Three properties (Oriental Avenue, Vermont Avenue, Connecticut Avenue)
      • Purple: Three properties (St. Charles Place, States Avenue, Virginia Avenue)
      • Orange: Three properties (St. James Place, Tennessee Avenue, New York Avenue)
      • Red: Three properties (Kentucky Avenue, Indiana Avenue, Illinois Avenue)
      • Yellow: Three properties (Atlantic Avenue, Ventnor Avenue, Marvin Gardens)
      • Green: Three properties (Pacific Avenue, North Carolina Avenue, Pennsylvania Avenue)
      • Blue: Two properties (Park Place, Boardwalk)
  • In addition to the properties, we also have:
    • Four railroads (Reading Railroad, Pennsylvania Railroad, B&O Railroad, Short Line)
    • Electric Company
    • Water Works
    • Free Parking
    • Income Tax
    • Luxury Tax
  • I am assuming that Jail, Chance and Community Chest could remain named as such.
  • Monopoly has a ton of cards for Chance and Community Chest. I can't document them all here, but I think we should consider alternate wording for some of them. NOTE: at least in the "basic" version, we should not change the effect of the card.
  • Instead of houses and hotels, I would consider something like hovels and castles/keeps.
  • We need tokens. There are a total of twelve tokens in the standard Monopoly set. I would suggest making a mix of the traditional player classes (fighter, cleric, mage, ranger, etc...) and the iconic D&D monsters (beholder, orc, goblin, skeleton, etc...). I would avoid using a dragon because everyone would fight for it, and I would also avoid using tokens that are so similar they can't be told apart ("Is that a goblin or a kobold?" ... "Is that a fighter or a paladin?").
  • Artwork will be a BIG issue, but we'll deal with that somehow.

So I'd like to hear your input. If you have ideas on what some of the above should be like, speak up with a comment below or through email to dflor@brainclouds.net.

Quite honestly, I see no way in hell that they'll go for this, but you can't blame me for trying. If a miracle happens and they do provide the go ahead, I would consider creating a Kickstarter fundraiser in order to acquire funds to design, develop and produce the game in full. I'm not doing this for personal profit; I just want the game!

So what do you think, guys?