Wednesday, October 9, 2019

WILD Dev Diary 2 - Current Structures and Past Inspirations

Last blog post I explained that I had a notebook filled with every note, inspiration and working-out I had since I started writing WILD, my RPG of dreamshare technology.

Seeing as the builders next door are using pneumatic drills to dig up concrete, my concentration for actually working on WILD is a bit fried, so I thought I'd continue my look at the old notes and see what I'd put.

My next couple of pages are a list of films, TV series and books that I considered inspiration for WILD. You'd probably recognise a lot of them as ones I mention frequently on this blog.

Inception, Suckerpunch, The Matrix, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Wizard of Oz, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, H.P. Lovecraft's Dream Cycle, Dreamscape, Sleepwalkers (TV Series), Assassin's Creed, Cell, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Mulholland Drive, Ink, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, The City of Lost Children, eXistenZ, Life on Mars, Parasomnia, The Bridge (Banks), Awake (TV Series), Fringe, Lost, Vanilla Sky/Open Your Eyes, Paperhouse, Escape Into Night, Twin Peaks, House of Sleep...

I haven't gone back and added to this list in a while, and there have been a few I should add. Must do that.

On the next page, I have a list that just says - "To Look At:"

Under that, is "Dream Journals" - something I've done a bit of research into, especially considering the idea of solo gameplay in the WILD universe that involves journaling.
"Lucid Dreaming" - well, that kinda goes without saying, but this was early in the notes.
"False Awakenings" - done so many times in horror movies... "That was a horrible dream, ah, jump scare!"
"Eckankar" - a modern religion whose followers believe that the soul can leave the body and travel to other planes of reality.
"Interobjects" - the dream phenomena of encountering an object that is the merging of two objects but it's incomplete.
"Pre-lucid dreaming" - near lucid dreaming.
"Veridical Dreams" - prophetical dreams, or dreams that contain real events that the dreamer is unaware of.

After that is the page from the photo at the top. The Stages of Sleep (NonREM or NREM) through to REM.

I drew this weird doodle of what I thought the dreamrealms would look like, but it's nonsense. Just the doodles of an idle mind.

--

That's enough of that for this entry I think. Don't want you getting bored.

CURRENT STATE OF PLAY

I mentioned before that I had a restructure of how the game works, and the game system itself, and I thought I was pretty happy with the way it was working out. I kinda came to a grinding halt actually writing it, trying to get it down on paper. I'd got the basics of it down, and I thought the best way to describe it was to give an example of the system in action.

The Matrix, obviously not WILD... 
So I had a basic example of a hacker trying to get information out of a computer before the guards arrived, and started writing how the "roll" works - I put "roll" in quotes as it's actually a pretty simple card draw looking at some tarot cards.

Then I thought - why make up the results just to show what happens? Why not actually draw cards and type it up? Win or lose, it explains everything.

A couple of draws, and our hero had failed to get the information - three guards burst into the room and she was trapped. Another draw, and she'd kicked one through the office door, smashing the glass, and punched another in the face. Another draw, and she'd managed to knock the second guard out, but the third guard got a shot off, and she was injured from the hit. A third draw, and while she managed to dive to get the memory stick as the guard continued to fire at her, he clipped her in the shoulder and she crumpled to the floor. She was alive, but captured. The memory stick hidden for now...

The "rolls" were super quick, the whole scene resolved in a matter of minutes with action playing out in a smooth flow.

Excellent.

I'm happy with the way the game system works, I just need to try to structure the rules so they are (a) interesting, and (b) easy to refer to - though the rules are so simple you'll remember it pretty quickly.

Right, I guess I should get back to it.

Until next time.

Keep dreaming.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

WILD Dev Diary 1

Synchronicity has a knack of sneaking up on you and before you realise it, the universe has given you multiple signs that all point to the same thing.

First of all, I'm back to working on WILD. I'd had a bit of a break from it while I did some commissioned work on Doctor Who, but now I'm back to getting my head into the dreamrealms. Returning to it when I've had a break from it, I started to see ways to fix it, make it work better, and that involved tweaking the game system rather dramatically.

Second bit of synchronicity came from reading a handful of articles and listening to a couple of cool podcasts about game design and publishing. Most of them included a comment about keeping people interested in what you were working on by publishing a regular "Development Diary", so your potential audience and players could see how the game was progressing, the thoughts behind your design decisions and so on. And while I've been posting the odd update here and there about how WILD was progressing, these articles and podcasts lead me to think I wasn't doing it regularly enough.

And then, the third bit of synchronicity came on Sunday. It rained. I mean, it RAINED. It looked like the fight scene at the end of The Matrix Revolutions. It was hard to actually see through the rain. And, being the fool I am, was walking home from the dayjob in it. No raincoat, no umbrella. Just my suit jacket. And a hat... By the time I got home, my clothes were plastered to me. I hung my jacket up, and it dripped so much water I had to put newspaper under it. Two days later, and it was still wet, and will need a clean.

Inside that jacket, in the inside pocket, was my notebook. An A6 Moleskine-a-like made by popular stationery chain Rymans. This notebook as not left my side in many years. It is where I started formulating the ideas for WILD, making notes of how the game would work, how dreams work, key ideas of dream research, psychology, and inspiration from all sources.

It's like a backup of my brain - all the many ideas that I need to write down so I don't forget, they're all in there. And after the downpour - after my complete drenching - it was a little damp.

Luckily, it was just the black cover that was wet, and the pages were untouched. Lucky.

This reminded me of something I'd planned on doing for many moons - writing up some of my ideas and thoughts as a Developer Diary, so not only you could see how my brain got from "Wow, I should make a tabletop RPG of dreamshare technology" to where I am now, but also so I have a backup of what I've scribbled down, and can remind myself of ideas I noted down many years ago that I may have forgotten all about.

And so begins my Dev Diary posts. Hopefully, this will be fairly regular - and it'll get me writing and thinking more and more about WILD.

--

 Let's make a start, and look at the first page in the Dev Diary! This is really going back a bit. I have a distinct memory of coming out of the cinema after watching Inception and my head was full of ideas of dream sharing and why there wasn't a game that did that.

I was reminded of the game I ran in my late teens that was based on A Nightmare on Elm St, and how obsessed I was with the third movie - Dream Warriors - and how the characters all appeared in one dream to tackle the evil. And how I loved Dreamscape, and The Matrix, and how I really wanted to write a cool game that captured that feeling.

So I bought this notebook and started jotting down some ideas - each idea has a little box next to it to categorise it so I could keep track of which ones were [Game System] or [Setting], and so on.

A lot of these notes were made sitting in the library, opposite my dayjob, when I'm desperate to escape from the mundane work on my lunch hour and just think about what I'd rather be doing.

That first spread (and the pages that follow) are me randomly writing down ideas that I needed to remember:

[Game System] Do dreams have a number of points for their stability? The more fantastic the elements in the dream, the more likely the dreamer will realise it is a dream and it will collapse, but is this just for people who are untrained and unaware that they are asleep? What about people who have gone in fully aware?

[Note] How much of a dream is remembered upon waking? Some seem to be lost instantly, while others can always be recalled.

[Why?] Why are dreams being explored? Is there a Collective Unconscious? Maybe not so much Sandman-esque dream-realms, but maybe more like Tron - where multiple dreamers, using the technology, have formed distinctive locations through repeated visits. 

[Note] Without the machines can you enter someone nearby's dream maybe through will, etc.? Maybe part of the plot would have to be getting the device onto a target without alarms. (Dreamscape)

[Note] Powerful enough dreamers bringing objects out of the dream realms into reality. (Elm St, Paprika)

[Note] Doing it without a device, only through meditation. Drugs don't work, produce impure results.

[Game System] Maybe a dream has a number of Story Points? As the players use points to manipulate the dream to their own ends, they are used until the dream collapses. A dream within a dream uses a portion of this as well. Architect can increase and replenish a little, trying to hold the dream together until mission end. 

[Note] Actives need to be classified to be different from Projections - the "scenery" characters who are a figment of the dreamer's mind. Do these Projections act hostile against intruder Actives or is that too derivative? (Inception)

[Game System] Injury and death in the dream, does it result in waking or continuing injury into the real world, or both? A threshold for injury? When hit or injured a character needs to make a roll to resist waking... lighter injuries are ignored, but more severe injuries are carried over into the real world. Fatal injuries have a chance of waking - or dying in the dream like the folklore says.

[Scenes] Start in the middle of the action, never describe going to a location. Keep players on their toes.

--

That's the first few pages. More next time, which hopefully will be less segmented!

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Dreaming of a Better System


Sorry it's been a little quiet here on the blog. While my other writing gigs seem to have dried up, and the day-job is building up slowly to the crazy panic and frenzy of the festive season, I've been able to turn my focus (pardon the pun) onto WILD.

My problem was, as I was laying out the pitch that I took to Dragonmeet last year (almost coming up to the first anniversary of that - arg!), the more I thought about the game system that I had in front of me, the more unhappy with it I was. I wanted it to be more narrative, but my head was too old-school and hung up on the past.

Thankfully, the last few games I've been playing with my group have really opened up my eyes to different possibilities and I realised where I've been going wrong.

First thing to do was to change the tarot cards I'd produced for playtesting. I realised that while I had four suits that were also the Attributes, I noticed that the suits of the tarot I had assigned to each were wrong and were better suited (pardon the pun again) if I switched three of them around. And then, I realised that I needed to update the court cards from their original names from the first draft of the rules to the more recent revision... So, a lot of Tippex was used and they were tweaked.

Then I started considering the basic mechanic of the system, which was far too much maths. X+Y±Z+card (try to beat difficulty) A, check difference. Blah, blah, blah. TOO SLOW... and boring.

I tried the new system with the newly Tippexed cards, and checking for a success is so bloomin' quick you wouldn't believe. Very, VERY little maths. It's just a little easy to succeed at the moment, so it's going to get a tweak (but not to the actual system, more to the interpretation of the results).

With that major hurdle sorted, it's back to the actual writing.

One day I'll get this bloomin' thing finished!!


Tuesday, September 3, 2019

New World, New Times, Mutation...


Just a quickie to say that things have changed.

Nothing major, just the basic look and some logo designs. The Autocratik Logo has evolved over the years... originally it was designed to look like Debs and myself holding a red flag, to symbolise how we were being revolutionary - ha! As if. Anyway, back then, when I was a comic publisher, it was the shape of the mast head of a comic - and had the full name - "Autocratik for the Masses" - which was a play on REM's album, Automatic for the People.

When I thought about going it alone again in the world of publishing, doing things my way, the name Autocratik seemed to be apt again and I redesigned the logo. It was a development of the Soviet propaganda art that I always loved, and hence the logo used a Russian "D" - it looked like an A to western audiences, hence A for Autocratik, but in my head it was D for Dave and Debs.

And, with #RPGaDAY ending a few days ago, I thought now would be a great time to rebrand a little. Nothing too major, just losing the Russian lettering and avoiding any confusion. So the new logo is the ultimate in minimal A's...

The typeface of the logo's different now as well. It used to be Impact, which is pretty common. And it's also cut off from the bottom - no it's not a cropping error... it's intentional. Makes the A's look like cool triangles. I like it. It's simple and basic...

Now I just need to do some new normal business cards and do a new T-shirt for Dragonmeet.

www.autocratik.com now directs to this blog, rather than the holder site. All the links from there are presented on the top here, and you can click those to directly follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Youtube.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

#RPGaDAY 2019 - DAY 31: LAST

Custom Doctor Who Micro Universe figure that's supposed to look like me - well, as detailed as the micro universe got.
Custom Autocratik dice thanks to the awesome www.chimericdesigns.co.uk

Day Thirty-One of #RPGaDAY 2019 - and the final word for this month-long exercise in spreading a little love for tabletop roleplaying games is LAST.


"This isn't meant to last, this is for right now..."

Had to squeeze some Nine Inch Nails in there somewhere.

What has LAST got to do with today? Well, it's the last day of #RPGaDAY 2019. That's an easy one.

Is it the LAST #RPGaDAY? Well, that's up to you.

Is it my LAST #RPGaDAY? Not sure. Next August is a long way off - things may change dramatically before then.

What's the LAST thing I want to say about #RPGaDAY this year? Thank you. Thank you everyone who took part, joined in, spread the word, got involved, made videos, podcasts, blog posts, tweeted, posted on the Facebook page, took photos, painted things, drew things, or just engaged with other #RPGaDAY-ers.

Without you, this wouldn't be possible and it would have come to an end years ago.

In the meantime, please keep reading the blog as I stagger through my creative ramblings.

Until next post - Stay multi-classy!!

Friday, August 30, 2019

#RPGaDAY 2019 - DAY 30: CONNECTION

Custom Autocratik dice thanks to www.chimericdesigns.co.uk
#RPGaDAY 2019 nears its end. Just two more posts to go. Day Thirty is all about CONNECTION, and that really is what #RPGaDAY is all about. Connecting with other gamers, with creators, players, streamers, painters, fans, and making new friends. Finding new games to play, new gamers to talk to, and connecting with the gaming community.

While we're connecting, support those who want support. Share the cool stuff you discover, spread the word of the awesome games that are out there, and the amazing creators who are making them.

Until tomorrow...

Thursday, August 29, 2019

#RPGaDAY 2019 - DAY 29: EVOLVE

Robin is certainly a character who has Evolved! Cool Autocratik dice thanks to www.chimericdesigns.co.uk

Day Twenty-Nine of #RPGaDAY 2019 is EVOLVE, and I'm sure (like me) your gaming has evolved over the years. If only I knew then, what I know now. Well, that's true of many things really, not just gaming.

Anyway, back in my dim and distant youth, RPGs were all about killing monsters, taking their stuff, and getting the XP to get better at killing monsters and taking their stuff.

There was no character development - short of gaining XP and becoming more powerful so we could adventure some more. There was very little in story, especially the games I used to run. It was all about throwing bigger and bigger nasties at the characters and letting them fight it.

I guess, it wasn't until I'd had a break from gaming. Everyone had gone off to Uni and I didn't game for ages. It wasn't until I went to Uni myself years later, and was introduced to the local gaming group who were engrossed in a game of Vampire: The Masquerade. Gradually, over time, I experienced the delights of stories, character development, tension, and more. I mean, they were all there to be experienced in our old-school games, but we were too young to really think about it.

The games have certainly evolved since those first ones I played back in my youth, but I like to think my gaming style and tastes have evolved with them.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

#RPGaDAY 2019 - DAY 28: LOVE

Ms Mad Love herself, Harley - custom Autocratik dice thanks to www.chimericdesigns.co.uk
Day Twenty-Eight of #RPGaDAY 2019 and we're nearing the final few posts for this year. Thank you to everyone who has taken part this year, and those who have kept going this long! Today's word is LOVE.

Love of this hobby is what started #RPGaDAY, trying to get people talking positively about the games they play, about the friends they've made, and I appreciate every single one of you who has taken part and shared their posts over the years. Thank you.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

#RPGaDAY 2019 - DAY 25: CALAMITY, DAY 26: IDEA and DAY 27: SUSPENSE

Spider-droid has seen better days, time for a hot bath! Custom Autocratik dice thanks to www.chimericdesigns.co.uk
Much like the Doctor said, "I got away from me, yeah." Day job, deadlines, and so on has meant I'm three... yes, THREE... days behind on #RPGaDAY 2019.

*Insert Charlie Brown Aaugh!*

Time to catch up!

DAY 25: CALAMITY

Not really sure what I had in mind for CALAMITY - I guess the thing I always think of when it comes to RPGs and calamities is the good ol' fumble. At least that's where I remember it starting. Fumble tables, when you roll so badly that you really - I mean, REALLY - mess it up big-time. That kinda escalated over the years to become "disasters" or "Despairs" or the like.

Are they good for the game? It's a bit of both really - there's the advantage that it really shakes things up, adds some challenge and often some humour, and can lead to some exciting story developments. However, I've noticed a trend in "Fail Forwards" thinking - you don't get what you want, but something helps with the plot. Can they both exist in one game? Hmmm...


DAY 26: IDEA

Well, that's always my problem. I have too many ideas for games and not enough time / resources / connections / money to produce them. Possibly the best known of these ideas is the Harry Potter RPG I'd love to write if I could only fund the massive licensing deal and convince J K Rowling that RPGs are a great idea. Then there's the Ka-Tet RPG I wanted to write - roleplaying in the many worlds of Stephen King. I tried for that one, but it was just as the movie deal was being signed for the Dark Tower, so they said it wasn't a property they were interested in licensing out.

Problem is, I watch things and think "That would make a brilliant RPG" - the most recent one was watching 3Below: Tales of Arcadia. Connected to the amazing Trollhunters, and the third series Wizards coming later this year, it would be a great RPG...

And Twin Peaks...

Maybe I should just stick to working on WILD...


DAY 27: SUSPENSE

Onto today's post, catching up slowly! SUSPENSE! Hate to bring it up again, but our most recent game of Fria Ligan's ALIEN was one of the most terrifying experiments in suspense building I've had at a game for a while. I'm guessing it's because the scenario just kept piling on the tension in the form of infections, secret player character motivations, the knowledge that at least one of the xeno/neomorphs was on the loose in the ship - it meant even moving from one area of the ship to the next was full of suspense.

Great! If very stressful.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

#RPGaDAY 2019 - DAY 24: TRIUMPH

A triumphant toast! Hurrah! Custom Autocratik dice thanks to www.chimericdesigns.co.uk
Day Twenty-Four of #RPGaDAY 2019 and the word is TRIUMPH. I guess this would be the best opportunity at "tooting my own horn" as they used to say - and relating a task I was triumphant at. Rather that turn the focus on me, I'm going to turn the attention upon a most triumphant character - Qedra Kovu - Zabrak Jedi apprentice, and new recruit for the resistance before the real Rebellion had even started coming together.

While the battle raged on upon the planet's surface, Qedra piloted his Aethersprite in the edges of the atmosphere, trying to take out as many TIE Fighters as possible, before they could reach the surface and decimate those who would resist the Empire. The Aethersprite did well, but it was eventually destroyed, hurtling down to the ground. But was Qedra killed? No. Was he defeated? NO!! He stood on top of that burning ship, riding it down like a surfboard. Guiding it with the Force. Aiming the flaming wreckage at the Imperial ground transporters. Jumping off at the last minute as the ship exploded, taking out one of the transporters - Qedra landed on another, fired up his lightsaber and started hacking his way into the canopy...

Epic.

Unlikely, but it's what Star Wars is all about. MOST TRIUMPHANT!!


Friday, August 23, 2019

#RPGaDAY 2019 - DAY 23: SURPRISE

Gi Shatta Gasha! Jabba also says that the Autocratik dice are thanks to www.chimericdesigns.co.uk
Day Twenty-Three of #RPGaDAY 2019 is a SURPRISE! This one I'm going to leave to the words of wisdom of my wife, Debs -

"You can sometimes surprise your players, but your players will always surprise you."

And Debs is always surprising when she's gaming. Keeps the GMs on their toes!






Thursday, August 22, 2019

#RPGaDAY 2019 - DAY 22: LOST

Mr Frodo, sir... Custom Autocratik dice thanks to www.chimericdesigns.co.uk
Day Twenty-Two of #RPGaDAY 2019 is LOST.

Initially, I thought about writing about the TV series. I was obsessed with that series, so much so I even started working out how LOST could be done as an RPG. This was back when I was doing stuff for Eden Studios, and thought a Cinematic Unisystem version of the game would work perfectly.


Of course, it never happened, and then there was that ending of the series which I won't go into... Such a shame. I really loved that series. Got very into it - read Bad Twin, did the online Alternate Reality Games, followed the clues...  Maybe I'll go back to my rewatch. I started a few years ago after managing to get the set on BluRay at a good price, and the opening episodes were still jaw-droppingly great. I loved every moment except that ending.

Anyway, this isn't really talking about RPGs is it? My amazing wife suggested I should write about the fine line between the characters getting lost and the players getting lost - and I must admit I hate that feeling of simply not knowing which direction to go in during a game. Thankfully, we have a great GM who plants lots of adventure seeds, and gives us the freedom to go off on a tangent.

I think I need more practice before I can do that.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

#RPGaDAY 2019 - DAY 21: VAST

That's a VAST Heroclix figure! Goliath!
Custom Autocratik dice thanks to www.chimericdesigns.co.uk
It's Day Twenty-One of #RPGaDAY 2019, and today's word is VAST. I could use this as an excuse to recommend you listen to some VAST (Visual Audio Sensory Theater) - I'd definitely recommend the first album, that features the single Touched, which you may recognise from an episode of Angel.


When it comes to roleplaying games, all I can say is that it is a truly unique gaming experience where the scope of every game is truly VAST. There are so many games out there, beyond Dungeons & Dragons, where you can really experience everything you could imagine. From the wonders and terrors of deep space, to the personal struggles of high-school. From inner demons, to outer demons. Gods, monsters, dragons, down to the most personal dreams. There is no computer game that can come close to the range of stories and adventures you can play in these games.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

#RPGaDAY 2019 - DAY 19: SCARY & DAY 20: NOBLE

Ardent Zungar - whoever they are. They look a bit cross...
Day Nineteen of #RPGaDAY 2019 was the word SCARY, and I completely failed to write this one up in time. Mostly as I was doing something pretty SCARY and went for a job interview. However, it was (thankfully) nowhere near as scary as I thought it could have been, and far less scary than what I'd originally planned to write for today's entry - which was about Fria Ligan's ALIEN RPG.

I know there was an ALIENS RPG many, many moons ago, but I always wondered why no one had attempted a new version of an RPG in the ALIEN universe. Luckily, it fell into the hands of Fria Ligan, the force behind the awesome Tales from the Loop, and we recently played the introductory adventure you get when you preorder the game.

And it was freakin' tense. We'd stumbled across a ship, adrift for decades, and went aboard hoping to unravel the mystery (and gain some tasty salvage).

Needless to say, no one survived. None of us - alien, infected, human or synthetic. All of us toast. Two whole ship crews went out after three incredibly tense sessions with arms being ripped off, ships piling into each other, and plenty of running down corridors with those flashing yellow lights and the computer alert repeating "WARNING: SELF DESTRUCT ACTIVATED"...

Fab. Looking forward to seeing how it'll work in campaign play as the xenomorphs are TOUGH. I know they are in the movies, but they're one hit killers. Nasty! Also want to see how the stealthy sneaking around rules work that Fria Ligan were talking about on the podcasts.

Awesome stuff.

And that brings me up to today.

Another one of those custom Dr Who Micro Universe figures I made, this time the Donna Noble "Runaway Bride" mini,
custom Autocratik dice made by www.chimericdesigns.co.uk
Day Twenty of #RPGaDAY is the word NOBLE. The only thing I could think of talking about when it comes to nobility was my go-to character class in AD&D, which was Paladins. But as I'm sat here writing this one, I thought maybe this is a good chance to mention Nobilis again. I know, it's a slightly off-centre interpretation for the day's word, but I did want to say how much I love the 2nd Edition of Nobilis.

The cover of 2nd Edition Nobilis - The "Great White Book" as it's known.
It's so pretty, a marvel of graphic design and layout, and one of the first narrative-driven games I've owned. The sad thing (or should that be scary, to tie in with day 19's post) is that I've still never played it.

It is one of the benchmarks of RPG design and production in my opinion, and something I can only aspire to achieve with WILD.