August 10, 2012

[RULES QUESTIONS] City of Fire and Coin

This august I fought the heat playing new games. One of the nicer I've found was City of Fire and Coin by Epidiah Ravachol. For a long time I asked myself why there was no game able to convey the feeling of a well written sword and sorcery short story. First time we played, we nailed the Sword & Sorcery atmosphere really easily.

Being an introductory adventure and the full game not being yet released, some questions hit the back of my head. What a better occasion to write the author, ask for an interview (yet to come) and hit him with my questions about the rules?

Hopefully sharing them can be useful to other people.

1) How manage the game if Rogues get separated or wants to split?
This is one of those things that seems scary at first, but isn’t as bad as you would expect. In the Discovery and Rogues’ Phases, nothing really has to change. In my experience, the rogues quite often get a little split up in the Rogues’ Phase, running off here and there to fulfill their demands. In the Perilous Phase it’s a little tricky, but still possible.
You can run a Perilous Phase with a rogue or two missing, as long as everyone’s cool with keeping it short. In fact, several times I’ve had Rogue Players end a Perilous Phase that wasn’t going their way so I could start a Rogues’ Phase and demand the missing rogue to show me how he shows up in the knick of time.
You can also run a Perilous Phase where the separated rogues are in different battles. As the Overplayer, you just want to make sure you focus on the action that’s happening around the rogue with the dice.

2) In a Rogue Phase we are bond to the first setupped scene or the questions can span through places and time, making flashback questions possible?
2.1) If the questions after the first can spawn through space and time, the player making the question must setup a scene before or not?
You are not bound by the opening narration at all. I mean, except for that first demand. But after that, it goes where it wants to go. This phase is particularly good for handling long journeys and flashbacks. If you think about scenes as we typically do, like movie scenes, then the rule is that a phase is not a scene. Several scenes may occur in a single phase and several phases may occur within a single scene. So you’re free to go wherever the phase takes you.

As for question 2.1, there's no need to set the scene in the same manner the Overplayer does at the beginning of the phase.
Basically, you would just follow what flows naturally from the narration. Let's say your the Overplayer and you start the Rogues' Phase by describing a musty temple, untouched by humans for centuries. The thunder is the fact that the jungle surrounding the temple is completely silent. Then you demand of Manyara, "Show us how you manage to evade the temple's traps. Manyara's player describes a descent into the inner sanctum of the temple that is fraught with danger that she skillfully avoids. Then she hands the dice to Muaphet's player demanding, "Show us what happened the last time you were here."
Jumping on the fact that it's been centuries since any human has visited the temple, Muaphet's player describes a harrowing experience from centuries past when he was once offered as a sacrifice to the temple's forgotten gods. Then he makes a demand of Snorri's player set back during the time of the rest of the story.

3) During the endgame what happens if we roll a Mystery or a Moral?
The player has the option of either creating a new one, or reincorporating one that already exists. Sometimes you may want to create a new one, because none of the threads on the table are that exciting. But most of the time I’ve seen the Rogue Players just opt to reincorporate. If they do reincorporate, treat the die roll as a normal roll for the tone rolled (or the opposite of the Overtone in the case of a Mystery).

4) How manage the game if one of the Rogues turns out to be a spy or a double-crosser?
My advice to the Overplayer is to get to a Rogues’ Phase and fast. It’s really the best phase for handling this sort of thing, because it keeps the story in a clear consensus. Someone can say, “Show me how you finally slip our grasp,” or “Show me how you manage to mete vengeance on my rogue,” and keep everything on the up and up. Since the goal of the game is to work together to tell an enthralling sword & sorcery short story, then people should be cool working together to tell of a great and treacherous betrayal.
If it matters, the rules for how a rogue dies are in effect, which means a rogue can only die if someone puts that rogue’s life on the line (which is always the case in a Perilous Phase and can be the case if the player making the demand during a Rogues’ Phase specifically includes a life or death situation) and the player of the rogue whose life is on the line accepts death. In my experience, most people looking to play a double-crosser are totally looking to see that double-crosser on the end of someone’s sword.

5) In the Rogue phase if a player ask a question to the Overplayer, he rolls the bones to set a tone or just uses the Overtone?
5.1) If the Overplayer does not roll a new tone, he cannot be stymied?
5.2) If he rolls, he can create a  Mystery  or a Morale?
Ah! This is one thing I had just found missing from the current edition of “The City of Fire & Coin.” And it is something I’m going to correct. The Overplayer only ever rolls the bones for the Overtone. Thereafter, if the Overplayer is handed the dice it’s usually to end a thread, or to answer a demand in a Rogues’ Phase. In this latter case, he does not roll the dice, which means he cannot be stymied and he does not generate a Mystery or a Moral. He simply holds unto the dice until he’s answered the demand and passes them on as usual.
There are a number of reasons for this, but the most important is to ensure that things happen in the story because of Rogues and not because of some villain or incidental character’s folly.
Also, keep in mind that the tones do not indicate success or failure. You do not need to roll a stymie have a character fail to do something. The rogues have befriended a meek shepherd and escort him across the badlands so that he may ask the woman of his dreams to marry him. During a Rogues’ Phase taking place in a loud tavern where this woman is a barmaid, one of the Rogue Players hands the dice to the Overplayer and demands, “Show me how our shepherd friend fairs with his lass!” A glum result could mean sadness for our shepherd, or it could mean the whole tavern grows silent to listen to an earnest and beautiful proposal. Likewise, a jovial result could be about the merriment and joy of lost love finally found, or it could be about the shouting and hullabaloo raising by the woman’s current boyfriend who is now comically chasing our hapless shepherd around with a leg of mutton.


August 3, 2012

[Interview] Sage LaTorra about Dungeon World

Dungeon World is a lot of things.
Dungeon World is a modern game made to go killing kobolds.
Dungeon World is an hack of Vincent Baker's Apocalypse World
Dungeon World is a fiction-centered dungeon crawl game.
I backed the kickstarter project, played a demo game and patiently waiting for my book to be ready and on it's way.

In the meantime I arranged a little interview with Sage LaTorra, one of the Dungeon World's dads. Hope this helps you get interested in this game. It's totally worthy of your love.

1) Dungeon World just successfully ended his Kickstarter campaign. You asked for 4.000$, you got more than 82.000$. People seems to love the idea of a game with modern rules which they can use to kill Bargle again. Do you think it's because the public is not trusting the next iteration of D&D and it's looking somewhere else?

I don't think it's about trust in other designs, I think gamers just understand that there are a lot of games out there and that you use different games for different things. We made Dungeon World specifically to facilitate one type of game, and it does that really well, but it doesn't do everything a game could do. I think that's what people recognize and appreciate about it.

I have no idea what Wizards' numbers look like, but I'd bet our numbers are too small to draw any kind of conclusion about what their audience wants. We set out to make a game that we really enjoy, the number of people who dig it is a welcome side effect but not what we were expecting when we first put this thing together years ago.

2) You made available your game in CC licence, for free and you assured that this will not change in the future. Why?

We're using a CC license because it's the simplest cleanest way to tell people what they can and can't do with the text. A lot of games struggle with licenses that aren't entirely clear, haven't been tested in court, and which demand they maintain two versions of the game (one for licensing and one for publication). Our primary goal is to get Dungeon World to as many people as possible, and the CC license does that. It insures that there will always be space for people to make their own Dungeon World content, no matter what we think of it.

For us it's also quite practical. The CC-licensed files are actually the raw files that we use to do layout, there's no difference in the text contained. It feels great to know that we're not splitting our system to only offer a section of the rules as open content. Dungeon World is open from the ground up, which I love. 

It's already paying off too. Dungeon World is still a pretty young game but because of the license we're already seeing adventures, classes, all kinds of stuff for it. I think that a lot of people love that anything they make is completely legal, even if it becomes a product.

3)  I feel D&D shares a lot with your game, especially the feeling you get from playing. Please tell the readers why a gaming group should play Dungeon World instead of playing just Dungeons and Dragons.

That's a really tough thing to say! I don't really want to tell people not to play any game. Play what makes you happy, if that includes Dungeon World that's great. But there are some reasons why I think a lot of people will enjoy Dungeon World:

It's incredibly easy to learn, even as a GM. I feel like one of the weakest parts of many games is that they don't give the GM concrete procedures on how to run the game well. There'll always be degrees of skill between good GMs and great GMs, but we've used a lot of techniques (most of them owing to Vincent Baker originally) to make Dungeon World a game that really helps you GM. We've had many people say that just reading our chapters on how to GM has changed the way they run other games for the better.

It's fiction-forward. The most important thing in any game of Dungeon World is what's going on in the world of the characters. The rules follow from that: the rule on attacking doesn't tell you how to make an attack, it describes the outcomes when your character makes an attack. The fiction of the game dictates when the rules come in, the rules just help resolve those actions.

It's got an amazing tone. A lot of this owes to the brilliance of Adam's writing—the whole game text (including the rules) just makes me want to play. It doesn't read like the textbook that a lot of game rules eventually become. We've made every effort to make the game read like talking to us. We're not going to hold back anything or try to make it serious. We're going to tell you how the game works and why it works that way.

If those are things that interest you then Dungeon World is a game you should check out. Will it replace D&D for you? Depends on what you like about D&D.

NOTE OF P&P: Sorry if turned out rude toward WotC and/or D&D. It was just a question born to point out the differences between the two games, not to bite the hand that feeds me, considered I have an ongoing D&D campaign ^_^

4)  I played a test run of your game last week and, for us, the biggest enemy was ourselves. Specifically our unconditioned D&D reflex made our experience something not perfectly comfortable. How do you advise gaming groups can manage the transition between D&D and Dungeon Worlds?

Sometimes for new groups it helps to think of Dungeon World as explicitly not D&D. If you're sitting down to play a game about a touring rock band you're unlikely to slip into 5 foot squares and initiative. So while Dungeon World draws on the same cultural well as D&D it can be worth thinking of it as something entirely different.

This is actually something I've found with a lot of games. The fewer reference points I go in with the better I enjoy them. It's kind of a personal quest now: I try to engage every game I play on its terms, not with my experiences from other games in mind.

5) Hacking Apocalypse World is the new indie trend and a lot of amazing games are born from this. How do you explain that and why did you choose to do an Apocalypse World hack in the first place.

In a lot of ways Dungeon World chose us.

The idea of a D&D + Apocalypse World hack was started by Tony Dowler. I saw some of his earliest documents in 2010 and loved them, I was entranced by the idea. A little later that year I got to play with Tony at a convention and I loved it so much I spent the rest of the convention running the game for other people.

After that convention I decided I'd do some layout on Tony's docs and try to make them a little more stand-alone. The original version required referencing the AD&D Player's Handbook a lot and I didn't want to have to haul that around with me too. I posted some early ideas on twitter, Adam saw them and started giving feedback, and a few months later we realized the game had hooked us. Tony gave us permission to continue his work (I think he knew how much work there was left to do and was glad to have someone else do it) and Dungeon World started evolving.

So in the end it wasn't so much that we decided to make a hack of Apocalypse World so much as there was this amazing hack begging to be made.

I think the reason it was begging to be made so much is that Apocalypse World gives us some new tools for talking about how to run and play games. The way it communicates to both the GM and players what they do and how they do it is amazing. Once you've got the clear structure of Agenda, Principles, and Moves under your skin it's kind of hard to not design with them.

6) Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are revolutionizing the indie publishing scenario. Do you think Dungeon World would have been published without this kind of crowdfunding?

Yes, but not so well or so easily. Dungeon World already had such a massive following before the Kickstarter that really we couldn't have kept up with the demand on preorders had we run them ourselves. The first few hours of the Kickstarter would have brought our site down easily. We're not setup to take payments directly either, or to easily hand out updates.

Kickstarter doesn't so much change how you publish as change how easy that model is to pull off. The RPG crowd has been great about supporting things they like for quite some time, but Kickstarter makes it easy to host a page that allows that kind of support.

Of course the cost is a cut of the money, but luckily Adam and I aren't in this for the money. Even if we were, I think the added exposure of the Kickstarter would have more than made up for the cut they take.

7) Let's do a trip to the future, if you please. It's January 2013 Dungeon World is out, all the backers extra stuff is out, you just came back from a long vacation (or honeymoon if appliable). What happens now

Well, our trip to the future got delayed by all that future stuff, so I'm now writing this post-wedding and post-honeymoon. So where are we now and what's in the future?

In the near-term (like, this week) we're getting through the final bits of the first round of editing and writing rough drafts of all the custom content going to backers.

Once all that's nailed down we'll be heading to the printer, at which point we have some time to wait for printing turnaround. The turnaround on each physical reward varies, but the printing on the hardcover books is likely to take the longest. While we're waiting on that we'll be getting started on some of the PDF-only backer rewards like the Barbarian.

When the books arrive we'll have a crazy weekend of getting them all ready to mail. Actually, a weekend is probably optimistic. I anticipate my house being a disaster area for quite a while as we fulfill all the orders.

Once the orders are out, the books are to retail, and the other PDFs are finished we get to start thinking about the future, which is where this all gets really exciting. Dungeon World has made a huge splash to start with, but we want to grow it bigger. We've got some plans for how our supplements will work, our con presence, and how to get Dungeon World to as many people as possible. Stay tuned!

August 2, 2012

[First look] City of Fire and Coin

City of Fire and Coin is a 23 pages long PDF introducing readers to the upcoming Sword Without Master RPG.
"Our objective is to toil and struggle together to craft an enthralling sword and sorcery short story."
I approached the PDF like any other quickstart guide, strong of my past experiences just to discover that this PDF is different. It's not a summary of the rules and a quick adventure but a step-by-step lesson on how to play City of Fire and Coin. The Overplayer (GM) will use this book to learn the game while teaching it to the players.

Just to be clearer: one of the players will assume the Overplayer role, while the other 3 will get a character. Then the Overplayer will start reading the text aloud, until the first scimitar icon. Where the Overplayer reach a scimitar icon, it's time for everyone to put down the book and just do what he just read. Be warned, it's not CYOA style, but a full fledged RPG with the quickest learning curve I've ever seen.

The game is simple to learn and the mechanics are really interesting. 

HERE you can get the PDF I'm talking about.

I can't wait to see the full game and write a proper review.

August 1, 2012

[Actual Play] Fiasco: White Hole

Tonight we played Fiasco: White Hole

Me explaining the rules + 3 beginners
Duration: 2h, including explanations.

Fiasco is always a safe bet and this time I was surprised by how it works in every situation ...

I'm especially pleased because I saw a player who I knew as "not enthusiastic", jump in right away and have fun. And then say "This game is cool!" to me.
(the fact that he jumped without being excited is because I play with beautiful people even IRL ^ _ ^)

Positive note 0: I chose right the playsets playbook to put on the table.
Positive note 1: Players who appreciate the "boundaries" of the structure that helps you play consistently.
Positive note 2: Players who say "I don't like indie games", but this works well. And then stay after the game to chat about how to play better.
Positive note 3: Being able to make comparisons with the emotionally charged scenes of our D&D game and use them to explain the "Story Now" idea
Positive note 4: "But 16 scenes are not enough!"
Final note: A request to play it again it after the holidays ..

To be improved 1: Go to more directly into conflicts
To be improved 2: Help people go "into" the scenes and use direct dialogue.

I still want to try it with people already experienced, because until now I have always played with beginners.