Jan 9 2012

Bundle of joy

No, no one at my home is pregnant.

However, over at RPGNow there is a great bundle of games that happens to include Hollowpoint (and Deluge for that matter). It also has a bunch of titles from independent developers that you likely haven’t heard of. Have you heard of the game, My Cat is on Fire? Toypocalypse? They are all in there. It’s about $50 worth of games for $25.

So GO PLAY SOMETHING NEW.

Here’s the full list of what’s in there:

Hollowpoint from VSCA Publishing
Deluge from VSCA Publishing
Toys for the Sandbox: Apothacary from Occult Moon
Mi Gato se Incendia! (My Cat is on Fire!) by Benjamin Gerber
Argyle & Crew: Adventures in the Land of Skcos and two new scenarios by Benjamin Gerber
Mirkmoot’s Magical Accouterments for Creatures Great and Small by Benjamin Gerber
Mirkmoot’s More Magical Mayhem for Creatures Small and Great by Benjamin Gerber
Shadow, Sword & Spell: Under Pashuvanam’s Lush from Rogue Games, Inc.
Conventions for the Aspiring Game Professional by Jess Hartley
Instant Antagonist: The Creepy Cottontail from FR Press
Open Core Roleplaying System Classic from Battlefield Press
Toypocalypse from Top Rope Games
Old School Hack by Kirin Robinson
Kicking Historical Asses from Machine Age Productions
Homicidal Transients from Left of the Moon Games

Oh yeah — this is only good until the end of January! We can hardly call it the new year after that.

–BMurray


Mar 31 2010

VSCA Q1 2010

Here’s the VSCA sales as of Q1 2010.

Lulu revenue sales

Deluge (digital): 44

Diaspora (digital): 11

Diaspora (hardcover): 541

Diaspora (softcover): 29

RPG Now revenue sales

Deluge (digital): 21 23

Diaspora (digital): 93 98 101

Vendor sales

Diaspora (both bindings): 230

Totals

Deluge (digital): 65 67

Diaspora (digital): 104 109 112

Diaspora (physical): 800

Diaspora (all formats): 904 909 912

Deluge was an experiment and not really marketed at all, so its sales are mostly hardcore fans of VSCA and people picking it up because it’s cheap and near Diaspora I expect. Score one for the browsing audiences at RPG Now! Its sales are much higher than I anticipated.

For Diaspora, after the initial surge in August of 2009 at release, we had hoped to see 1000 sales during its first year. That’s a magic number of no particular significance, but it looked like a challenging goal. We figured if we hit that then we could say nice things about ourselves to ourselves. With over 900 revenue sales of Diaspora after only 8 months, this goal looks like it will be handily achieved. When we hit that mark I’ll think about the next goal.

Up next for us I think will be a concerted effort to get Diaspora into IPR affordably (for us), which means printing somewhere else. Along with that will be work on Hollowpoint, Soft Horizon, Chimaera, and Soulscape — and part of that will be prioritizing these to make sure effort goes where there’s the best chance of success. Right now Hollowpoint is closest to done and it’s a little thing, so it will probably get some focus right away and maybe release before summer. The rest I can’t speak to.

Thanks to everyone who has helped us out, and even the criticism from non-fans has been helpful. This industry-cum-hobby has been great fun for me so far as a neophyte.

-BMurray


Feb 12 2010

Agency

So I feel a little guilty.

A little.

Sometimes when JB and I get together for lunch we talk about games. You know, specific games, gaming theory, mathematics, social effects, what we like, what we don’t like, that kind of thing. It’s fun. It’s productive.

Now, JB is working on a game so sometimes we talk about his game. We don’t do this very often — you know, we’ve done it a couple of times. Things is, each time we’ve come up with something cool, I’ve stolen it. The first big one was Deluge where I stole the whole post-apocalyptic community salvaging idea. I consoled myself that it was sufficiently different from what he wanted that he’d probably still be my friend. Now Deluge was just an experiment (at least partly in licensing) and so it’s not expected to sell millions of copies. And it isn’t. So that’s cool — JB’s game isn’t going to deal with a market that’s already seen this.

The other day, though we came up with a pretty cool idea. Basically, if you start with a big wack of dice, how about you donate some to a communal pool that represents “teamwork”? And when you want to act you can take some dice from there. Nifty I suppose. Now what if when you did that you got to tell one of the other players that they are helping you and you were encouraged to order them around? So they’d buck. And what if, should they tell you, “Fuck that,” the dice are destroyed? So there’s both a tactical and a social stake in the process. That strikes me as pretty funny and I figured my table would engage it enthusiastically.

So I went home and banged out a couple thousand words that would serve as a playtest document. And then last night we played. And it rocked.

So of course now I’m thinking that this is a pretty fun little game and I’d like to share it and maybe make back a fraction of my time in cash and, well, do some artwork too, and maybe come up with a cool little layout for it and…yes, it’s another project. I stole from JB and made a thing again.

Sorry, man.

–BMurray


Feb 7 2010

Six Month Report

Hey it’s been six months since Diaspora went out the door and (consequently) since VSCA Publishing came into being. So here’s the numbers so far:

Diaspora vendor sales: 178

Diaspora direct sales: 493

Diaspora total: 671

Deluge direct sales: 30

So that puts us in pretty good shape to meet our (arbitrary) goal of 1,000 copies of Diaspora in the first year. Happy.

–BMurray


Feb 5 2010

Mumble mumble narrative authority

As soon as you say “narrative authority”, a large body of gamers get all sweaty. After last night’s session of Deluge (played with A Dirty World for the system again), I wonder about the immediate rejection narrative authority sometimes suffers. I wonder this because I’m not sure it’s actually all that novel an idea, so I wonder what the adamant persons on both “sides” are actually on about.

I don’t often get a chance to play. I’m very frequently the GM. But recently the others at my table have been more and more eager to take up the mantle, and so I’m playing, and so I’m thinking about playing. Here’s one of the thinks I thunk. In A Dirty World, your character’s capabilities are always changing because when you lose a contest, your “skills” change. So if you get punched in the eye in a fair fight, your Courage goes down one and your Wrath goes up. This might change what your best option might be, which has the nifty side-effect of avoiding the “I hit him with my sword. I hit him with my sword. I hit him with my sword.” effect. But it does something else, too.

When I play I am well rewarded by success. And here’s where the sneakiness of narrative authority comes in. Whenever I am declaring an action that I know results in a mediated conflict — that is, whenever I say “I shoot her”, knowing that the dice will come out to decide what happens as a result of this shooting — the fact that we go straight to system for resolution means I am stealing narrative authority from the GM! Granted I am placing it in the hands of the dice (you die, I die, we flee, they get polymorphed into frogs — whatever, when it’s system-created it’s narrative authority out of the GM’s hands!) but even that is slippery.

I like to win, like I said. That means that, while I am playing a personality I want to explore, I built the character to reflect the personality, and I did that by making her good at the things I want to succeed in. That also means I am going to steer most conflicts towards these strengths if I can and that means I get rewarded (by victory) and I play this character. Because I steer towards my strength and therefore victory, though, the outcome of a conflict is skewed by my tactical ability. That means that while I don’t mandate narrative direction, I do certainly have enormous say by way of this indirect method. And so can anyone else, in practically any game. Perhaps especially in ones that place all authority explicitly in the hands of the GM but then have nice clear resolution systems. When I say, “I would like to persuade her to give use the books by bribing her with my shotgun,” I know I have skewed the likely direction of the story in favour of getting those books. And the better I am at playing the game, the more control I have.

I noticed this because any time I want my character to accomplish anything, the first thing I do is look at my character sheet and ask myself, what am I most likely to succeed with? That is, I know what I want to accomplish and see my character’s abilities as a toolkit for doing that. Naturally I pick the best tool for the job. After a long fight, Charity had taken a lot of hits to her Courage which slid to Wrath — she’s tired and bruised and on a short fuse. Kam is looking to take her down a notch in front of her compatriots by mocking her. I look at the sheet for Charity — I get by far the most dice on the table with Graceful Wrath — shooting the unarmed.

There is no hesitation — Charity is mocked after a long and dangerous night, and she goes straight to the shotgun. “Now is not the time.” But that’s me making the narration happen. The GM didn’t necessarily want the scene to go there and the ramifications might be deep (but I am partially in control of that now). As long as I have the authority to declare my actions, I have the ability to take (probabilistic) control of the narrative.

It delights me every time I discover that a conflict is mostly smoke, or can at least be seen from an angle that makes it look that way.

–BMurray


Feb 2 2010

A little more on Deluge

So I put up Deluge last night for sale, as I already noted. I thought, though, that I had better talk about what’s in it because, well, it costs seven bucks.

Deluge is 37 pages of material, about 30 of which are strictly game-related stuff. It’s in PDF format using a version that lets me add bookmarks and hyperlinks, so it’s not fully functional on some kinds of software and devices, but you should be able to read it just fine. I have an ePub and MOBI version kicking around on my drive at home (and on my Kindle) that also works and if you want a copy of that just give me a shout.

It costs seven bucks but you can share it for free with anyone you want. Yeah that means that you can re-host it and give it away to the world. That’s cool by me — that’s part of the experiment. It’s only available through Lulu at the moment but I’m looking into getting its stuffed into more popular locales in the next short while. Probably in the complete “package” with all formats. Well, all the formats I have, I mean.

It contains, aside from some original artwork and thankfully terse fiction:

A discussion of the premise of the setting.

Concrete ways to organize and design characters so that they have cool things to do in the setting and with each other.

Ideas for developing communities so that they are interesting to discover and interact with.

Random tables for finding out what communities have, need, hate, and love.

A method for building a session around your home town, plus fourteen meters of water and a hundred and fifty years without modern technology.

Details for angels, bears, and giant squid.

A discussion of the kinds of secrets the GM will want to invent, keep, and reveal in the process of participating in a Deluge story.

Factoids about rain.

In the spirit of Diaspora and my own preferences, even though Deluge is a setting, it’s also still a toolkit. Yeah I know, settings have been traditionally anti-toolkit, but rather reference material for a campaign. Honestly, I hate that. Remember Thieve’s World, the game aid? What was cool about Thieve’s World for me was not the characters or the stats or the story lines already unfolding in the city. Honestly I barely read any of that because it wasn’t mine, I didn’t want to memorize it, and I knew my players would not read it or listen to me read it. What was cool about that was the map and the tone.

So Deluge is all about this kind of thing too — the core assumption is that you, the potential consumer, want to tinker. You want to take something and make it yours. You want to be as unhindered by canon as possible, so all you need is a premise and a methodology and you will be off and running making your own awesome game. Because that’s what GMs do, at least where I come from. So that’s what it delivers — premise, methodology, atmosphere, and some examples to spark your own imagination. In a sense I’m selling you a good idea rather than a game or even a setting. A good idea and a way to use it.

I am certain that my idea of what play is (as a GM) is not universal. There are people who want encounter details in a setting document. They will hate this document but, hopefully, they already know that because Diaspora is full of clues regarding my preferences and they already hate that game (or know they will hate it). However, if your idea of a good time is drawing over a map of your home town, documenting its destruction and its treasures, and then slowly revealing this to your friends during a rousing game with your favourite system, this is certainly built for you. It’s built for me, after all.

–BMurray


Feb 1 2010

Deluge available

You can grab it from Lulu for about seven bucks. As promised, it’s licensed under CC non-commercial share-alike. Share and enjoy. I have a MOBI and an ePub version kicking around here too and may put a package up at RPGNow or similar in the near future. Looks okay on my Kindle.


Jan 29 2010

More playtesting in Deluge

Last night we did a great run playing (I finally got to play!) in the Deluge setting but using Greg Stolze’s A Dirty World as the core system. This delivered a very different experience from our previous game using Reign, but just as (more, for me) satisfying. Here’s the current text as I write this but as always the most current is at the wiki.

Shipbuilding

Scout Charity Spence — Brad Murray
Scavenger Nemo — Tim Dyke

I (Byron) took the mighty horned helmet tonight for a further exploration of Brad’s intriguing Deluge setting.

I opted to use A Dirty World for a few reasons; 1) I knew it would work since it was based on Stolze’s One Roll Engine, 2) I had a pretty cool couple of visuals, 3) the table is amazingly forgiving for my awkward at times GMing and 4) I wanted Brad to play in the setting he was describing.

Charity (Brad) and Nemo (Tim) have been called before the Board of Technology with a mission, there has been no contact from the community of Port Haney for a few months and there have been rumours of something… odd going on in the area former called Maple Ridge. One garrulous old Technocrat of Theology understands why the renowned scout Charity is going, but why send that skulking scavenger Nemo? Charity graciously offers to leave Tim behind and take the Technocrat in his place. The curmudgeon quickly defers this honour and withdraws his complaint.

The Council of Technocrats concede to send a mail man in advance of the two and to arrange transport from the Centre to Port Haney.

Charity and Nemo head down off the mountain to the small seaside community of Burrard, where a skiff awaits them. Before they can board they are offered refreshments and relaxation, but since the two are under an hour into their journey they decline.

Nemo and Charity find themselves beseeched by Pearl of Burrard who implores the two to take a small, simple package to her sister Pearl at the Centre. Nemo and Charity see no reason to doubt the earnest woman and quickly agree to her requests. Nemo gets some fresh cheese and seal jerky as a bonus.

The pair are poled up the inlet towards the area formerly known as Port Moody. The captain of the skiff dumps them a bit further north than usual in the midst of the jungle and quickly hightails it out of there. Leaving Nemo and Charity to find their own way to the Centre with a vague wave of his hand. Nemo and Charity have been in this sort of situation before, without sharing a word they scope out the shadows following them. When the leader steps from behind a crumbled ruin, both are ready for them.

Tim and Brad both rolled very strong Observation rolls here so knew how many people were there and almost down to how old their clothing was.

“Halt. We aim to relieve you of those items you’re carrying.” begins the scruffy attired leader holding a massive machete.

“Listen,” begins Nemo, “we know what you need and want, we’re like you. We can help reconnect the mail and…”

BOOM

Charity unleashes a blast from her shotgun, killing the would-be bandit outright. From the tress, both note the other shadows slinking into the wet, shadows, intent now on easier prey.

Tim rolled a Persuasive Honesty roll, while Brad rolled Vigorous Wrath. Tim got the higher set, which ruined the set the NPC rolled, allowing Brad to pepper them with buckshot. ORE is a great system.

BJM: Charity rolled Graceful Courage — a calm and accurate discharge from the shotgun. It was only later I got wrathful from losing some rolls.

JBB: One of these days we’ll have a game with negotiating that ends without gunfire.

BJM: Dude, there’s one later in the session that ends in LESBIAN SEX — you are a hard man to please.

Along the way Nemo offers to fix a farmer’s tractor, the farmer points him to a rusted out set of metal with four large rubber tires half sunken in a field. They ask about Rose of Burrard, the farmer, lonely sounds intrigued but hasn’t heard of her but directs them on towards the Centre.

As they approach the Centre they’re accosted by Jak and Bil, two young guards standing atop the berm that surrounds the Centre. A berm made of the concrete of the collapsed high rises surrounded the centre, behind the berm is a deep moat that’s been expanded and deepened multiple times. Jak and Bil do their best to stop the two travellers but once they find out it is the scout Charity and notorious scavenger Nemo they quickly become fawning fanboys and direct the two into the Centre.

The Centre (Coquitlam Centre) is a shopping mall that’s seen better days, the roof leaks, the metal has corroded into rust and one former shopping department has collapsed outwards and been converted into a floating dock used for loading and offloading supplies.

Brad’s built a handy percentile role for deluge and it was here I realized what the Centre needed.

Nemo, being an old hand in scavenging finds the old directory and leads Charity down to the administration level looking for the Mayor of the Centre. One problem, the bottom floor of the Centre is in about 5 inches of water, but they find an old drunk, Charity kicks him awake and he waves them in the general direction of Zed, the mayor. “It’s the busy shop with the people going in and out of it.”

Back on the second floor, Nemo quickly finds Zed’s, and they quickly find Zed, sitting behind a counter and living in seeming luxury, as above him a flickering but steadily burning lightbulb above his head. On the walls behind him are archaic power tools. He doesn’t seem to do much business, focusing on his mayoral duties. Charity and Nemo introduce themselves and Zed quickly shuts down the shop and insists they dine with him.

They follow him down to the dining hall (food court) there are holes in the wall but as long as there aren’t any holes overhead, the people of the Centre seem happy to live in the wet. Zed orders a suckling pig (or two) roasted for this auspicious occasion. Nemo watches them handcrank the piglet and offers a complex solution that Zed nods and smiles and says sure. Nemo fashions an automatic roasting device, using an old chain from a chainsaw or bike and a treadmill. Nemo suggests they walk on it, but one clever lad thinks walking another pig on it would be much easier. The crowd gasps in awe as Nemo’s Roasting Device works and he gains much standing in the community of this delapitated mall. Meanwhile, Charity and Zed talk business. Zed confesses that things aren’t great in the Centre, they’ve lost their shipwright and without one things look bleak. Perhaps Charity could find a way to… liberate one from Port Haney? Charity believes in the necessity of a shipwright to the further survival of the Centre and agrees.

Tim rolled a Patient Demonstration success so taught the people a better way to roast meat, while Brad failed in a roll against Zed (NPC) but only barely, but that’s enough to see that kidnapping a shipwright is essential for the Centre to survive.

BJM: In failing her check, Charity gets Corruption shifted up. She’s accepted the idea that kidnapping is okay. Not the character I intended, but cooler in a way.

Nemo discovers Rose lives in the Centre, selling chickens and eggs to meagre profits and eking out a living. Nemo delivers the package from Pearl, but something doesn’t jibe, she grabs it too quickly and goes to tuck it away, but the wrapping rips and a stained mahogany box peeks through. Nemo and Charity converge on the poor woman, Nemo grabs back the box realizing this is something valuable from the Mountain whereas Charity wants to aid Rose. Rose’s attempt to escape fail and Nemo grabs the box, just before the butt of Charity’s shotgun smacks his elbow. Rose makes a desperate plea to the scavenger soul of Nemo, “Why does it always have to go UP the mountain? There are people down here who need just as much… no more… than those atop the mountain. We need this to survive.” Nemo acknowledges the wisdom of these words and permits her to keep the box, but he is a bit envious of her, since he hasn’t found much to scavenger out east yet.

Ok… Tim and Brad both Cunningly Observed Rose was up to something. Then Tim when to grab it back Vigorous Defiance whereas Brad wanted to aid Rose with Vigorous Courage while Rose tried Graceful Defiance to get away. Tim got the best roll, then Brad and Rose got none. However, Rose used Persuasive Honesty to convince Tim to give her back the back, with Brad’s gobble dice eating up Tim’s successes Rose kept the box.

Which was a McGuffin until I realized it was a tech McGuffin!

BJM: Charity’s Vig/Cour roll was an attempt to smack Nemo’s arm away with the butt of her shotgun. Her failure causes a shift on Wrath. Gettin’ mad here.

In the morning the pair met a salty old sailor, likely the only one brave enough to navigate the Pitt Bay (Pitt River) in the Centre. An uneventful crossing and Nemo disappointed he can’t recognize any potential looting places. Charity and the captain trade anecdotes.

On the Ridge side, they’re deposited north of Port Haney. They’re being watched but in a casual way. They arrive at night and in the dark, a guttering torch invites them onwards. They’re escorted to a tavern, when outside the tavern two lean, viscous seadog walruses leap out of the water, teeth sharp and savage. Charity inquires about these, seadogs, turns out they’ve been around for about 30 years and came from the sea and only in the past decade have they domesticated them. But they’re still more beast than pet.

Bedtime. Except Charity and Nemo want to explore. Nemo stumbles in the muck and rain and is immediately escorted back inside to share scavenging stories, which works as a great distraction for Charity to explore the town. The ships here are indeed much, much better than any she’s recently seen. There are entire logbooms near the shipyards for shaping. She sketches some rough drawings for the Technocrats atop the mountain. The boats are sturdier, leak less, ride higher in the water, seem to almost skim across the surface.

Tim failed his Sneak roll, Brad succeeded.

In the morning they meet the mayor of the town, a hearty young woman who commands respect. She and Charity show an immediate familiarity. They swap maps but the mayor is holding something back. Charity, in kind, holds back some of her maps too; pulling out an older map of the area. Nemo, slightly bored and missing the civility (and ruins) of the city spots a young girl bounding up and down bursting to share something with someone. It’s the mayor’s child (a girl of 10 – 12) and she rushes up to Nemo, who refuses to ask the question until to bursts out of her like a waterfall off a cliff, “You haven’t seen oobec… that’s where you wanna see… oobec… that’s where the trees come from.”

“Can you spell that for me?” asks Nemo.

“No. It’s spelt like it sounds I reckon,” she replies.

“Where is it? Can you draw it for me?”

So she does, by drawing an arrow pointing upwards at a tree on the floor.

Frustrated, Nemo filches a map from Charity.

Opposed roll, Tim tries to Steal from Brad. And it’s close, both got sets. 2×6 for Tim, 2×4 for Brad.

BJM: Charity’s rolls is a Vigorous Courage — basically if Nemo fails, she notices and punches him in the mouth. She fails and again takes a shift increasing her Wrath. Grr grr. Pretty soon she is going to be more effective punching the weak than in fair fisticuffs. As a player, I KNOW I am going to use whatever is most effective to get what I want.

Nemo has the girl point on the correct map he’s just lifted where these trees are. It turns out a bit further north from where they landed. Charity and Nemo talk later about what they’ve learned, Charity pulls out an even older map and between the two of them they decipher ‘oobec’ refers to an old UBC Research Forest to the north of Maple Ridge.

Brad and Tim succeed on a Knowledge roll.

In the last scene, Charity is trying to convince the leader of the community here (a strong woman like Charity herself) to send some shipwrights to Coquitlam Centre. Charity is prepared to kidnap (and her increasing Corruption ensures that) but Brad wants to resolve it ethically if possible. They discuss passionately and agree to work something out, though it’s not clear exactly what got resolved. Charity seems to have made her point, but the proof will be in the pudding.

Brad makes a Corrupt Persuasion check here because Charity’s Corruption has increased, so this is essentially a seduction. Certainly the scene contains some sexual tension. Tim assists with a Patient Demonstration roll, giving charity a width increase which seals the deal. I (Brad) read this as Tim actually making the point, but the leader’s personal interest in Charity is what actually makes her accede.

Charity’s success nets her another shift for Corruption.

BJDK: Considering I didn’t take a note about the rolls, and winged it from memory, it’s interesting to see how Charity could become a Wrathful, Vengeful Scout.

Charity dismisses Nemo with a wave and snuffs the light.

And that’s where we ended it.

–BMurray (with B.Kerr)


Jan 26 2010

Licensing Deluge

Leaning towards this license for Deluge:

Creative Commons License
Deluge by Brad J. Murray is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

Comments? Do you even care?

–BMurray


Jan 25 2010

Publishing Deluge

I am going to publish the setting, Deluge, sometime in the next month or two. I did a bunch of new writing for it on the weekend and I feel inspired to do some artwork for it and I had fun experimenting with layout on it. So it’s fun, and you can have it if you want it. I want it — I’m playing it and having a great time.

Here are the four three experiments.

Systemless Experimentation

It’s an experiment in systemless setting design. Not just in whether or not that can be done — it’s been done often enough before that I see no essential controversy there — but whether there is a process for doing it. Is there a way to reliably take an idea and turn it into something others can and will use as a setting? So this process is pretty straightforward:

Describe the idea

Obviously you have to tell the audience what the setting is about. I’m looking at a very rapid development cycle here, so I’m not relying on writing a ton of exposition and fiction. I’m also using an original idea, so I can’t just point to existing canon and say, “like that.” Instead I am relying on the three solutions we used in Diaspora:  micro-fiction that delivers tiny scenes that illustrate how I feel about some aspect of the setting, mechanisms that deliberately create the tone I intend both in play and while reading, and a willingness to back away from stuff that I think is cool for the user to create.

Answer the question, “Who are these guys?”

Who are the agents in this place? Who will the players play? What kinds of characters live here that are worth pretending to be?

Answer the question, “What do they do?”

What do the characters do that’s fun? How do these activities chain together to form adventures? Why do the players care to pretend to do what the characters do? In Deluge we find the answer is (concisely) that they go on missions essential to the survival of communities that protect and love them. That last turns out to be important. Another post though.

The fact that they “go on missions” is not quite enough, though, and so there are mechanisms in Deluge that imply, suggest, bribe, and even bamboozle players into the mission mentality. Mission-driven gaming is one of the most profitable forms for me because you can get going so very fast and everyone knows what’s what right away. It’s why practically every MMO that makes a crapton of cash uses a quest scheme of some kind. And you can always excise it — if you sit down to play and describe the world and the players already know what they want to do, you can just sit back and watch it happen, regardless of whether or not a mission has been offered.

Answer the question, “Who opposes them?”

What is the nature of the conflicts that the characters will face but, more importantly, what are the agents on the other side of them? What are the monsters of this setting? In this setting the opposition takes many forms. The ultimate agents opposing humanity are the angels, but more immediately characters will confront other humans with opposing interests, wild animals, the environment itself, and the decaying ill-understood ruins of the old world.

This is tricky in a system-free setting because obviously you can’t provide stat blocks and stat blocks are part of what people expect to pay for. But you can talk about the kinds of mechanisms that need to come in to play for each form of opposition and you can talk vaguely about representation (these guys are strong and smart, but slow and ugly). So that’s a challenge.

Interface to systems

Finally, to be systemless, I choose to be explicit about where the user needs to attach her system. So throughout the document there are passages that are solely about ways to make the intended effect happen in any system, sometimes with examples from specific systems. Mostly, however, the concepts are general and the solutions will require a little work (but not a lot) from the user. The assumption underpinning this is that one person at every table (at least) loves this kind of thing. As evidence I offer the fact that most of the posts about Diaspora are about how to make it do something else. I expected that. I love that it came true. It might be an essential fact of populist role-playing games that they succeed when they facilitate mis-playing them.

Publication

Publication itself is going to be an experiment as well. I intend to publish Deluge solely as a PDF (I know you’ve read my opinions and blitherings about PDFs but a hallmark of experimentation is that it could come out either way — you don’t experiment when you believe you know the outcome with any certainty). I intend to make it cheap because it’s getting written whether I publish it or not because it’s in my head and trying to get out.

Perhaps oddly (but it’s my experiment so I can do what I want) I am laying it out as though it were destined for print. There are a few reasons for this, but foremost is that laying out for electronic use turns out to be a dull and aggravating job. It holds no artistic interest for me and the only academic interests in it have already been resolved and I see no need to re-explore them. Most of them stem from correlation between re-flowable and paged texts anyway, and this is not an issue here.

I am, however, laying it out as though it were destined for your printer. It will be on standard US Letter sized pages, though oriented in landscape, and it will use fonts and graphics that I have chosen partially for their functionality on the low resolution devices we have in our homes (and, secretly, our offices). It will assume double sided printing and binding, but only because that doesn’t hinder it much if you choose to print it single sided and staple the corner.

I will test its viability as a document viewed on a screen, but I don’t care if it works on my Kindle.

Licensing

Deluge will be licensed under a Creative Commons license allowing free use, modification, distribution and all that good stuff provided it’s not for commercial purposes. I’ll be selling it but you can give it away once you have it. I think there is plenty to be learned from this, though it will be hard to disassociate other factors in sales and availability. Ultimately the normalising number I will need is evidence of actual play, and you can’t command that and you can’t even know what percentage of actual play is reported. So it will be hard to draw conclusions from this unless the results are dramatic.

–BMurray