Tag Archives: Slime Story

Progress Sort Of

I wanted to take some time to write a bit about what I’ve been up to, admittedly in part just to not have that D&D post at the top of my blog. I’d rather think about making and playing cool stuff myself than worry about what’s going on elsewhere, and I have a heck of a lot of cool stuff going on. On the other hand I’ve had some writer’s block and had a hard time getting serious writing done, which is probably a lot to do with why I keep getting ideas for more random projects.

Magical Burst
I’m just about ready to wrap up my first playtest campaign of the 4th Draft. It’s exposed a huge number of issues with the game, and Versions 4.1 is going to take a good amount of work on various fronts. Right now I’m right about to where I need to step back from the project and mull over all the feedback I’ve gotten and my experiences with the playtest. One key thing I’m definitely writing into the GM advice is to let the magical girls have some semblance of normal lives, because that’s where a lot of the tension and drama of the game come from.

Golden Sky Stories Stuff
Apart from stuff like taking care of the few remaining packages that went missing or got returned, the major thing left to do with GSS is finish up the remaining original material. I was able to knock another thing off the to-do list when I found an artist for Faerie Skies, namely Clove, who among other things did the cover and some other art for Inverse World. He sent me the first of his sketches for Ellisandra the elf, and I am ridiculously happy with the results so far.

Dragon World
For some reason I got inspired to look at Dragon World again. This led to spending an evening reading through the 25k or so words I’d already written, and brainstorming more classes. Among others, I’m working on one called the Digital Invader, which is an MMORPG character being mysteriously projected into the fantasy world. I’m also making some minor tweaks to the rules here and there. It’s going to need more playtesting of course, but it’s looking really good, which I guess shows the advantages of building off of an existing system rather than trying to build one from scratch. Also, using this as an excuse to start watching the 52 episodes of Slayers I haven’t seen. I kind of want to Kickstart it, both to get it out into the world and to have the excuse to see what classes and such my various gaming friends and colleagues could come up with. (Ben Lehman already floated the idea of doing either a maid class or something based on Ryuuko from Kill La Kill.) Also possibly custom dice, though of course I’m getting way ahead of myself.

That also has me inspired to look at what else has been going on in the way of PbtA games. Since I already backed the Kickstarter I finally started reading Inverse World, which turns out to be pretty fantastic, particularly in how it evokes the setting. Likewise there have been some really great new third party Dungeon World playbooks like the Princess and the Dashing Hero. Although core Dungeon World seems really good at what it does, some of the third party stuff seems just spectacular, especially for the stuff where they weren’t beholden to D&D cliches. (And that’s before we talk about Monsterhearts, which is just astonishingly good.)

Slime Story
Looking at all this Apocalypse World-based stuff led me to think about the possibility of reworking Slime Story as a Powered by the Apocalypse game. Slime Story is a concept I came up with literally about 8 years ago, a present-day setting where mysterious magical portals have appeared and started dumping cute monsters like something out of a Korean MMO into the world, and while in many places they’re under the control of warlords or corporations, in suburban America a subculture of teenage monster hunters has arisen. The “Slime Engine” system that I’d been struggling to put together may eventually turn into a good base for Slime Quest (my anime/JRPG-influenced fantasy heartbreaker), but the more I think about it the more it seems a poor fit for Slime Story’s weird mishmash of monster hunting and teenage slice of life. Among other things, it definitely calls for a system where many monster fights are routine and come down to a few quick die rolls.

i.hate.everyone
I got inspired to finish and publish i.hate.bronies, the MLP-themed expansion to i.h.e, and further to do a prototype of i.hate.gimmicks, an experimental expansion with a bunch of stuff to try out new mechanics (which I’ll have to do some actual playtesting on). I also got inspired to do a Game of Thrones expansion. I was going to call it i.hate.thrones, but I realized that i.hate.joffrey might be a better name. It’s coming along slowly though.

Sharkicane vs. Dolphoon
Not an RPG thing, but after watching the RiffTrax Live of Sharknado I got inspired to write this incredibly weird story. The sharks are using dark magic to summon up the Sharkicane, and the dolphins may be our only hope. Also, I realized that the reason the people are being so slow and dumb when they should be evacuating right away is because the sharks’ sorcery has dulled their wits.

Beyond Otaku Dreams
And for an added bonus, reading Epidiah Ravachol’s Swords Without Master (in Issue 3 of Worlds Without Master) got me thinking about Beyond Otaku Dreams. It’s a game I really want to make happen, as it’s based on personal experiences far more than any other game I’ve done. SWM has this intriguing thing where you roll to set the mood as either Jovial or Glum (with passing the dice around the table being an important part of how you play the game), which put me in mind of how Beyond Otaku Dreams is about a collision of Hope and Delusion. It’s incredibly tricky to figure out, since it needs to be a simple but carefully-made mechanism for group storytelling, and it generally gives me a feeling of trying to build a castle in the air.

Slime Quest Thoughts

Lately I’ve been poking at Slime Quest a bit, and it has me really wanting to get into working on it in earnest. Of course, I have a bunch of stuff I need to get sorted out for Star Line Publishing, the Golden Sky Stories Kickstarter, and Raspberry Heaven. Still, I want to do a blog post to blather a bit about Slime Quest, which will probably include some stuff I’ve posted about before.

Slime Story is an idea I came up with around 2006, a world like ours except with the addition of magical portals spitting out MMO style monsters that people have taken to hunting for fun and profit. In some parts of the world corporations or warlords control the portals for the marvelously useful bits of monsters, but in suburban America monster hunting is mostly something teenagers do for fun. The system, which I think of as the “Slime Engine,”[1] owes a lot to Japanese tabletop RPGs like Arianrhod and Meikyuu Kingdom, plus a bit of Dungeons & Dragons and a drop of Apocalypse World. Making an anime fantasy game with the same rules was a pretty natural thing to do (and if I ever develop both enough you can be that the mystery of the portals in Slime Story will have something to do with the Slime Quest setting), but because it forces me to make the math a bit more rigorous I may end up finishing it first.
Continue reading

APE/Raspberry Heaven/Slime Story

APE 2010 Report
I went to the first day of APE (Alternative Press Expo), an indie comics event held yearly in San Francisco. If you want to see my thoughts on it you can check out my blog post over on Neko Machi. I’m really jazzed to have a booth there next year, which may include some RPG stuff, depending on what we can get together.

Raspberry Heaven: Rethinking
I’m thinking of giving Raspberry Heaven another major rewrite. This mostly came from looking at what I want it to do and comparing it to how Fiasco does what it does. It’s becoming a major theme in my grappling with RPG design lately that there’s a sharp distinction to be made between guided and unguided creative input. While as a player I don’t want a game to constrict what kind of character I can make too much, starting with a totally blank canvas is much harder. If I want to make a fully realized GURPS or BESM character, it’s going to be a major project, best undertaken a week or more before a campaign starts. Compare that to a game with more input provided be the rules, whether it’s a Fiasco playset, an In a Wicked Age oracle, or even just the suggestions inherent in picking a race and class in D&D, and I have a starting point to hold onto so that the whole thing goes much more quickly.

With the current version of Raspberry Heaven there’s a tension between the game wanting to be a light pickup thing and it requiring lots of unguided creative input to really get off the ground. While the source material (slice of life 4-panel manga about schoolgirls) lends itself to long-term storytelling (in an episodic kind of way), the tone of the genre and game are such that I think it needs to be more about getting into role-playing situations with ease and finding out where it goes from there. Although for a variety of reasons it’s definitely not going to be a clone of Fiasco, the generation of the situation and characters definitely needs to have something of Fiasco’s ease of use. That still leaves the question of what will go on during the actual play, for which I’m getting various ideas from Jeepform and Norwegian Style, and the Jeepform adage of “structure but not rules” is proving particularly helpful. The end result isn’t going to be much like a typical RPG, and it’s likely not going to be much of a “game” in any traditional sense, but I think it needs to be that way.

Slime Story: Relationships and Stuff
Right now the major thing I’m struggling with for the next revision of Slime Story is the relationship/connection rules. While I have the combat rules pretty much where I want them, the connection rules and the stuff surrounding them should pretty much be the entire other half of the game, and they need to both be interesting and have incentives to engage them. I’m still working out how to do that exactly, but the ability to strain a relationship in order to help you out with other things is likely going to be part of it.

Another thing I’m adding is explicit guidelines for “Stunts,” which is just a codeword for “stuff not explicitly laid out in the rules.” They are my attempt to pull back a bit from stereotypical D&D4e “pick a power and use it” combat, with the added advantage that in Slime Story if a proposed stunt seems especially difficult the GM can have it cost Awesome Points.

Thoughts That Are Random

Pockylips Worldo
Apocalypse World has been generating a heck of a lot of discussion, and I think I’m going to have to join in, possibly in podcast form, especially once I finally get a copy of the actual book. I got to play it at the South Bay Story Games Day event at Game Kastle in Santa Clara, and was very impressed, though it’s worth noting that it was MCed by a gentleman named Carl who was very experienced with running it.


One particularly interesting thing about it–which somewhat ties in with what I talked about in the last podcast–is how the game very carefully and thoroughly delineates the GM’s job, to a degree that is basically unprecedented. (Which explains the change in terminology to “Master of Ceremonies.”) As Jonathan Walton put it, apart from explicitly encouraging hacks, “it makes no effort to offer flexibility to people with different tastes or desires.” On the one hand I don’t share Will Hindmarch‘s (apparent; I may be misreading him) discomfort with AW’s approach, but on the other hand I really like the idea of this development and the tools it implies existing, but on the third hand (I’m running Dark Sun this weekend; maybe it’s a hypothetical Thri-Kreen?) needless to say I wouldn’t want every game to work that way.

Over on Theory From the Closet’s interview, Vincent said he’s a game designer rather than a teacher, and in light of that it makes sense that he’s sending what he’s figured out about GM techniques out into the world in game form. While it goes without saying that he never meant it to be the end-all be-all of GMing techniques, the GM’s role is one of the single most ephemeral things in RPGs. There are definite advantages to that of course (another Theory From the Closet Episode has David Wesley explaining how using a human referee saved his wargaming hobby), but there’s also the problem that we don’t really have the vocabulary or techniques that we probably should for discussing (much less modifying) what exactly the GM does. There’s a lot of good advice out there, but it’s really hard to be concrete.

A Story of Slime

Of course, right now the thing with Apocalypse World that’s more immediately relevant to me is the Hx/History system (the one that gave Ryan Macklin a little trouble), since it’s pointed me to a way to improve Slime Story. Setting up connections between characters is currently one of those things that can easily become tedious because it asks for largely unguided creative input.[1] AW’s History mechanic the setup of the PCs’ relationships and shared history into kind of a minigame with different abilities per character type, which also serves to dump the players into having to work with mechanics and each other. While I’m not completely happy about stitching yet another piece onto this Frankenstein monster of a game, it looks like it has immense potential.

A while back I made the acquaintance of Steven Savage, who amongst other things does the Fan To Pro blog and the Seventh Sanctum name generator site. (And if we can ever get our schedules to coincide enough he’s going to be on the podcast.) When I told him about the game I was working on he, having recently seen the Scott Pilgrim movie, said Slime Story sounded like “magical realism.” While Slime Story doesn’t strive for a Jorge Luis Borges type of style or anything, it does juxtapose the real and fantastic, and I think that in terms of the setting that’s its real strength. There’s an inherent tension between the teenagers’ ordinary lives and the absurd monster hunting they do. I’m not sure what to do with this epiphany apart from including it in the text, but I think it’s very important to realizing the game I want to create.

Dice Within Dice
I was at Toys R Us the other day and wound up buying the “Pavilion Games Black Die Multi Game Set.” Pavilion Games is apparently a brand name TRU came up with for selling cheap and generic board game stuff. I’d seen this many times before and put off buying it because it was $19.99, but it was on sale for around $12. It’s a black faux-leather box like a black d6, about 6½ inches on a side. Inside are two decks of cards, four small dice, a doubling cube, a set of poker dice, a small game board for chess and backgammon (with pieces for both), a rather small set of double-6 dominoes, and a booklet of rules. I think I like it more for the novelty of the box than what’s inside, though I suppose even given that I’m not really into board games it’s not a bad idea to have those things around. (Someone was working on an RPG that uses dominoes, right?) Also, it has enough room to fit several of the other assorted game materials I’ve accumulated.

[1]I’ve heard such complaints about, for example, Prime Time Adventures’ pitch sessions. The results can be great sometimes, but I certainly don’t find that kind of thing terribly efficient with my friends.

Updates On Stuff

After basically being unemployed apart from some sporadic freelance work throughout 2009, I now have a full-time job. I’m not going to discuss the details publicly unless I get explicit permission, but it’s in the video game industry, if an odd niche of such. Trying to keep up creative stuff while working 40 hours a week and having a considerable commute to contend with has been a challenge so far, especially since my social life has gotten busier too (I’ve had regular stuff going on four days a week, though that’s calming down a little too), but I’m starting to get a handle on it.

I don’t want to get into the details here, but I’ve decided I need to scale back my internet use a bit, or at least my use of certain parts of it. At work it’s hard to find much else to do during breaks other that surf the web, and after a month I just feel the toxicity of it too much. This won’t affect this blog except insofar as some of those sites give me ideas for stuff to post or podcast about, but you probably won’t see me posting on RPGnet or Story Games as much (not that I was ever a prolific forum poster anyway). I’ve also stopped using my main Twitter account for the time being in favor of a new one (@bunnymuse) where I tweet nothing but random bits of stories and other prose ideas. I don’t know how long I’ll keep this up, but so far every time I’ve gone back on this decision I’ve wound up regretting it.

Slime Story
Slime Story has reached a point where I basically have the core rules where I want them for this revision, but I have to deal with a bunch of interdependent crunchy bits to get it ready to playtest. Writing up monsters is particularly challenging, since I really need to have the right variety of them and ensure that they provide the right kinds of stuff for providing adversity and interesting monster parts to make “alchemical” items with. “Monsters” in general are not an aspect of RPGs I’ve ever dealt with very much, and I think that inexperience is part of what’s making things difficult. It’s also still damn hard to come up with Talents to go with cliques, especially since I severely reduced the importance of social conflicts, which were the most combat-like part of non-combat stuff. Still, Slime Story is easily the creative project that most excites me of late, and it’s gotten more of my limited time for doing that kind of stuff than any other.

All of that means I’m getting pretty close to being ready to playtest Slime Story again, maybe even as early as next week. Slime Quest is much further off, since it will require both changes to the rules and even more assorted crunchy bits (a wider variety of “monsters,” classes and races with talents, equipment including magic items, etc.). I wanted to mention that I also have other ideas for “Slime Engine” games, most notably a new version of Thrash (I think the battlefield map system is exactly what it needs) and a thing about teenagers with special powers in the vein of A Certain Scientific Railgun, Kampfer, s-CRY-ed, etc. (so a mixture of superpower battles and boarding school life). But if those ever amount to anything they’ll be a long way off.

A-Kon
A-Kon is coming up really fast, and I’ve got some preparation and such to tackle still, even with the convention handling a lot of the more basic logistics for me. I’m going to be involved in something like six different panels, a lot of which are in the evening (9 p.m. or so), and a couple of which will require some considerable preparation on my part. The one on Japanese RPGs especially will take a lot of prep, since I want to put together a PowerPoint thing to show stuff off rather than lugging a ton of books to Texas. OTOH I think I could do the one on Anime and RPGs more or less off the cuff, considering how long I’ve been blogging and podcasting about the topic.

Slime Story/Quest: Talents and Quests

Talents
Slime Story’s rules just keep on evolving, and the whole thing with Awesome and Suck Points has led me to make some significant changes to how Talents work, and also to make them less derivative of D&D4e. Some talents are Passive and just give an automatic bonus to something, but “active” talents can have Costs (in Awesome or HP) and/or Usage Limitations (once per scene, only on a triggering event, etc.), but are meant to be more or less equal in overall utility (which makes the advancement stuff much easier to work out).

I’ve basically dumped the “At-Will/Scene/Episode” thing for Talents, though there will be some with “1/Scene” among their properties. Arianrhod and Meikyuu Kingdom have both provided a lot of inspiration for how to go about setting up Talents. Arianrhod’s talents remind me a lot of 16-bit era Final Fantasy (and FF4 and 6 are two of my all-time favorite video games ever BTW), while Meikyuu Kingdom just does all kinds of crazy stuff, especially since it has Skills relating to different aspects of kingdom-building. I seem to have given myself tools that will let me rewrite the Talents I’ve already created with relative ease, though I need to keep working at it and come up with more and more creative abilities to put into the game.

The question of how many Talents characters get and of what kinds is pretty straightforward for Slime Story (two Base Talents each from clique and class, one Elective Talent each to start, and one new Talent per level). With classes, races, and backgrounds coming into play, Slime Quest is a little more complicated. In that game classes have Base and Elective talents much like in Slime Story, but characters also get a Racial Talent, a Background Talent, and they have the option to pick up Common Talents. Racial Talents are kind of analogous to the various racial abilities in 4e, except you’re not required to take any particular one, so you can go with whichever from the race’s selection best fits your character. Common Talents are ones that any character can potentially get (which makes them the closest to Feats in D&D), and each Background has a list of possible Common Talents that you can pick from.

Quests
I also have a handle on how I want to do Quests in Slime Story. These are very much like the quests you see in MMOs. I’d originally been planning to make them an optional rule, but now I’m inclined to have them be core, and potentially pretty central to the game experience.


“Quests” are a slang term for when people hire monster hunters to do stuff for them. People post up offers on the “Quest Board” at the local Monster Mart, or online (in the Slime Story setting Craigslist has an entire category for it), or wherever. They often offer cash rewards, but trades or favors can be in the offing too (especially if the client is an alchemist). A typical quest is MMO type stuff–kill 10 salamanders, bring me 8 slime cores, find my pet dog who wandered out where there are lots of monsters, etc.–but in Slime Story the NPCs who assign quests are often regular characters in the game (secondary characters). Thus, the quests provide an excuse to interact and develop relationships between characters who might otherwise be a challenge to really fit into the game properly.

In my Slime Story novel I totally want to add a part where Kelly’s mom, a card-carrying member of PETM, very reluctantly hires Doug and company to clear out monsters that are wreaking havoc at her workplace. There are just a ton of different things you could do with quests in terms of developing the story type stuff, but then in MMOs it seems like that’s one of the primary ways in which the developers put story in.

Slime Story: Awesome Progress

Nothing particularly Easter-y going on with me, yet I have time to put up two blog posts in one day. Go figure.

I’ve been pretty badly stuck on what to do with Slime Story for a while, but I think I’ve finally figured out where to go next. The game has involved ripping big chunks out and putting new stuff in every step of the way, and this is no exception. The major issue is how to set up interludes to do what I want them to, and the solution has wound up involving stuff that resembles bits of Bliss Stage, Meikyuu Kingdom, and Nechronica. (And it will no doubt require plenty of playtesting to get right.)

So, the game has two currencies, called Awesome Points and Suck Points. They represent general positive and negative trends in a character’s life, which can be psychological or karma or whatever. You gain AP when you roll doubles (other than snake eyes), raise a connection by a rank, and certain other things, and you take SP when you roll snake eyes (a Fumble), get taken out in an encounter, or voluntarily take them to use things you’d otherwise have to spend AP on. Characters can end up taking SP to get through an encounter and to heal themselves afterward. All of that makes AP kind of like the Hope points in Meikyuu Kingdom, but with some weird twists. That includes making many Talents have a Cost rather than ripping off the Encounter/Daily thing from D&D4e. Another point economy to (heavily) playtest. Le sigh.


Anyway. Each character has two “Limit Breaks,” which are disadvantages that activate if they take too many SP. If you have 3 SP you have to pick one Limit Break to activates, and if you get 6+ the other one kicks in too. That’s your major incentive for getting rid of SP. I’m still working on specific Limit Breaks, but these are kind of like the fetters in Nechronica. I’m thinking there’ll be one called Clingy (for example), which requires you to stay uncomfortably close to whatever characters you have a high connection rank with, another called Unsocial that limits your ability to use teamwork or be close to others.

During interludes, each PC has the opportunity to do a quick vignette, which have wound up being a lot like Interlude Actions in Bliss Stage, which is to say you role-play, and an unrelated participant decides what mechanical effect you get. That will include a lot of the stuff I already had in the interlude rules (though significantly simplified in some cases), but removing a Suck Point will also be one of the major things you do (which also resembles the Conversation Checks in Nechronica).

I have high hopes for this whole thing working out (eventually), though it’ll take a lot of work to fully implement, especially since it’ll drastically affect the selection of Talents I need to write up. Aside from that and all the stuff I blathered about in my last blog post on Slime Story, I decided to add higher-level items crafted from monster parts, basically to give characters more crap to play with. I still need to work out more details and figure out what the heck to call them though. (And whenever I get around to working on the novel again I’m going to have a ton of setting elements to integrate.)