Tag Archives: Adventures of the Space Patrol

A General Update

I had started writing a design journal post about Fantasy Friends, and then I realized I had made such a post before and I was mostly rehashing stuff I’d already written about. In a way that kind of typifies a lot of what’s been going on with me in terms of game design: there are a lot of things I have more or less figured out in my head but still need to finish doing the actual writing and such. I think that has a lot to do with the Golden Sky Stories Kickstarter eating up so much of my time, but the good news is that for the purposes of the actual shipping of physical goods part my own work is very nearly done. All of the many physical items are variously already at the warehouse, on their way to the warehouse, or will be going to the warehouse once printing is done. All that’s left for me is to post some updates and handle letting backers update their mailing addresses when the time comes. After that we still want to get the remaining PDF stuff done in a reasonable amount of time, but it’s not going to be nearly as much pressure. Anyway, I decided to write a blog post about what I’ve been generally working on.

Friday Knights
One of my major projects right now is Friday Knights, a playset for the currently-Kickstarting Costume Fairy Adventures RPG, the inaugural product from David J. Prokopetz’s Penguin King Games. The game is about cute fairies who wear costumes that give them magical powers (there’s a deck of costume cards) and how they generally get into trouble. I’m writing a scenario/playset where your fairies wind up in a house where there’s a D&D game going on. I’ve made a good start on it, but there’s plenty of writing left to do.

Adventures of the Space Patrol
The other day while googling to see what people were saying about Golden Sky Stories I came across something that gave me pause. Someone had pointed out that in describing the Space Agents I had portrayed the male characters in a variety of ways, but managed to talk about pretty much all of the female characters in terms of being young and pretty. I’ve generally been trying to be better about inclusiveness and diversity, both to better serve my audience and to challenge myself to break dumb cliches, so it caught me off guard that I’d managed to do such a thing without even realizing it. On the plus side, that promptly gave me the idea to make Billy Smith’s mother a playable character, which is a dynamic that you pretty much never see in RPGs. Generally tweaking and playing around with the other characters is also going on my to-do list for the next revision of the game, whenever I can make time for it.

I’m also planning to include more robust rules for creating original characters. While I like having premade ones in many different ways, it seems pretty clear that a big chunk of the RPG audience wants the ability to make solid original characters. I also picked up the Fate System Toolkit. It’s packed with all sorts of ideas, but the one that interests me most is Conditions, though I’m not at all sure whether they’re really the way to go. Something to experiment with in playtesting.

Magical Burst
A few people have been asking about Magical Burst. It’s another one of those projects where I’ve pretty much figured out what I want to do, but need to find the time to actually do it. That puts it pretty much at the top of my list of things to do when GSS isn’t eating up quite so much of my life. I also need to find time to sit down and watch more of the magical girl anime that’s come out (the Madoka movies, Day Break Illusion, Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya, and I’m sure I’m missing something). Of my many neglected projects Magical Burst is easily the one I most want to make happen, and a Kickstarter is a very distinct possibility once I get the rules nailed down. (Though after my experiences with GSS, I’m definitely going to keep extras and stretch goals on a tight leash next time around.) As I mentioned before I want to continue having a free version of Magical Burst available, something along the lines of how Anima Prime has a no-frills free version and a fancy book with illustrations and such.

Other Stuff

  • I haven’t gotten around to posting it, but I did a revision of America’s Next Top Reality Show, making it so that each card has two title words, plus a demographic listed between. That way the game has 144 title words out of a 72-card deck, and doesn’t need for the players to have dice on hand. The game is working pretty well, though it has a very different energy from Channel A, plus we tend to feel kinda dirty after playing it, in a way that doesn’t happen even with Cards Against Humanity. ANTRS parodies something really prevalent in our culture right now, and potentially in a pretty cutting way, since sometimes it does feel like reality shows use some kind of randomizer.
  • Fighting Fighters Coliseum is the title I’m tentatively giving to a game that’s going to be a kind of successor to Channel A, still a party game, but with a little bit more in the way of rules. The idea is that instead of titles, you assemble your final attack name from words on cards. The game would also have a set of character cards, which double as both player avatars and opponents, with different special abilities for both. There’s still some details to work out, but putting together a list of words from special attacks was pretty much just a matter of culling through lists of such.
  • Something’s going to be happening with Maid RPG soon. Nothing earth-shattering, but something. I should be revealing it in about a month or so.

Adventures of the Space Patrol Playtest Version 2

It’s been a while since I did anything new with Adventures of the Space Patrol, but I’ve always been fond of the game. It’s got some of the heartwarming fun of Golden Sky Stories, and not unlike GSS it has its own aesthetic, not quite like other entries in the same genre.

I originally designed the game as a very simple custom build of Fate. When I started working on it, Spirit of the Century was the definitive version of Fate, and Awesome Adventures was the about the only simpler version out there. I really like the core concepts of Fate, but these days I’m generally not a fan of 300-page RPG rulebooks. There are also issues like how SotC gave characters a full TEN Aspects, which to my mind is about three times too many. I saw an awesome rules-light game lurking inside of Fate, and Space Patrol was in part my best attempt at creating that. More recently, Evil Hat had their explosively popular Fate Core Kickstarter. Along with a zillion other things, it brought Fate Accelerated Edition into the world. There was suddenly a 48-page version of Fate (available in print for a mere $5), which kept the essence of Fate and included the slick refinements of Fate Core.

You can probably see where this is going, but it was pretty much a no-brainer to revise Space Patrol to take full advantage of FAE. The way it handles the four actions, the rules for challenges/contests/conflicts, and so on do a lot to address the few things about my game that I had been trying to figure out how to smooth over. With OGL and Creative Commons licensing options, readily available SRDs, and the Fate Core Glyphs font, Evil Hat has made Fate pretty awesome to use from a publishing standpoint. Otherwise I didn’t change Space Patrol all that much. I tweaked a few things here and there (like making it so the GM just gets a flat 10 Atom Points per episode), adjusted some things to fit the new rules, and added a new character to the lineup (Cosmo the Wonder Dog). I also finished up the two sample scenarios I’d been planning to write. It’s all very first draft, but it should be totally playable. I’m hoping to get in some playtesting before too long, and to more thoroughly read Fate Core with an eye for finding elements to adapt to Space Patrol.

Me being the way I am I’m thinking about possibly doing a Kickstarter for it at some point. It’d have to wait until a lot more Golden Sky Stories stuff is out of the way, and if I do it I’m definitely going to keep it a lot simpler and sleeker than what we did with GSS. Also, I’m looking forward to having the excuse to get a bunch of cute, stylish retro sci-fi art done.

Anyway, without further ado, here is the current playtest draft PDF:

Adventures of the Space Patrol Playtest Version 2 PDF

Happy Games

Lately there’s been some discussion of some pretty awful stuff that happens in the RPG scene, to the point where I get genuinely tempted to distance myself from the whole thing. I’ve been working on a blog post trying to address some of the awfulness, but it’s long and depressing and given the kinds of discussion that sort of thing can attract I’m not sure I can really handle it at the moment.[1]

Right now I want to blog about something more pleasant. I want to talk about happy, pleasant RPGs. It can be frustrating to try to talk to people about these kinds of things, and I see two major reasons. One is that violence is so ingrained into RPGs that many people just can’t even comprehend how you could have one without it, much less how it could be fun. The other is that I’ve found that any time you propose doing something unconventional in an RPG design, people act as though you’re demanding that the entire hobby should be that way from now on. I’m very big on variety, and while I’ve been involved in some very memorable long-term campaigns, to me the sheer variety of games available is one of the best things about the RPG scene we have today. When I say I want to see heartwarming, non-violent RPGs, I’m saying so from personal experiences that show to me that they can be great, and I mean I want to see them alongside all kinds of other games.

I’ve had direct experience with four such games–Golden Sky Stories, Raspberry Heaven, Clover, and Adventures of the Space Patrol[2]–which is probably a lot more than most people.

Continue reading Happy Games

Adventures of the Space Patrol Playtesting

I’ve now run two playtest games of Adventures of the Space Patrol, and I’m now getting a much better idea of what I need to do to improve it. It’s the kind of game that somewhat depends on how the people playing handle things, and it’s the kind that isn’t likely to fly apart and become a big, interesting mess, so it took a while to really figure out where to go.

Stuff With Aspects
It will come as no surprise to anyone who’s played FATE before that making aspects and compels work properly is absolutely vital, and it’s a big part of why the first playtest was flatter than the second (though the fact that for me and one of the players our Skype session was very early in the morning was a factor too). I had been using compels mainly to represent characters doing something disadvantageous, but that’s actually severely limiting their scope. Compelling an aspect can also include stuff that will change the situation in a way that’s disadvantageous to the PCs, and for me at least it’s much easier and more interesting to come up with those kinds of compels.

I’m planning to go through and revise the characters’ aspects, with two things in mind. First, each character should have an aspect that’s clearly good for compelling. Second, each character should have an aspect that’s clearly about getting closer to others. Jono’s portrayal of Katrina, the Venusian Cat Princess was terrible and awesome, but I found she was a little more selfish than I really want characters to be for the same. However, changing her “Time to play!” aspect into “Play with me!” could make a huge difference.

Fusion Points
Jono and his friends are also into Primetime Adventures, and were actually in the habit of shouting “Fan Mail!” whenever someone did something they thought was neat (sometimes even when not gaming!). I’ve always found these kinds of reward mechanics to be a really powerful tool (Yuuyake Koyake has Dreams, and Peerless Food Fighters has Applause Tokens, and both work really well), so I’ve decided to try implementing something similar in Space Patrol in the form of “Fusion Points” that players can award to one another during the game. I love the atmosphere of creativity and improvisation they brought, and I’ve found that these kinds of mechanics help foster that. I’m also contemplating letting players use Fusion Points to do compels on other players.

More or less by accident, I stumbled on some stuff to improve the conflict rules. In the game I’ve simplified conflicts to basically being an effort to succeed at opposed rolls to give the opposition three temporary aspects before they do the same to you, and in the second playtest I did a conflict that was the PCs in a rocketship vs. a crazy volcanic moon. Reducing the sides to two active characters (with others lending a hand) and allowing characters to impose aspects on the other overall side worked really well. I need to sit down and refine this, but it goes a long way towards fixing the issues I saw with the conflict rules, while making non-violent conflicts that much easier. Also, turning a volcanic planet into a “character” was really neat all around.

In Conclusion
On the whole I’m really happy with how the game it turning out. I think I’ve managed to keep the bits of FATE that I really want and do some fairly novel things with the rules elsewhere. I’m grateful to Dan (whose Final Hour of a Storied Age needs work but is really neat), Peter, Jono, Sushu (whose Jiang Hu game has a ton of potential), and Aaron (who was awesome to do playtesting with) for lending a hand with my insanity.

Yaruki Zero Podcast #12: More Random Thoughts

Much like Episode 7, this time around I briefly talk about a number of different topics, notably Nechronica (Ryo Kamiya’s forthcoming game), A-Kon (an anime con I’ll be attending as a guest of honor), Neko Machi (the webcomic I write for), and Adventures of the Space Patrol (a game I’m working on).

Yaruki Zero Podcast #12 (40 minutes, 1 second)

Show Notes

  1. Nechronica: The Long, Long Epilogue is a forthcoming game by Maid RPG designer Ryo Kamiya.
  2. I’m going to be a guest at A-Kon 2010!
  3. Neko Machi, my webcomic
  4. Adventures of the Space Patrol is a game I’m working on currently, and nearly ready to playtest.

This podcast uses selections from the song “Click Click” by Grünemusik, available for free from Jamendo.com. If you like the song, consider buying some CDs from Nankado’s website.

Very awesome caricature of Ewen courtesy of the talented C. Ellis.


Adventures of the Space Patrol

For whatever reason I’ve been very inspired to put a lot of work into Adventures of the Space Patrol. I think it’s partly because I’ve been thinking about shorter games in general (and I hope to have some exciting news to share before too long!), and (in MS Word with normal margins and 12-point type) AotSP is likely to top out at around 40 pages maximum.

I’ve posted about it before, but Adventures of the Space Patrol is a game about “Space Agents” trying to help ordinary people with problems from outer space. The setting is inspired by a mixture of the art of Shane Glines and other illustrators/animators, and a mishmash of cheesy old sci-fi as seen through that general kind of lens. The rules are a very light implementation of FATE 3.0, with a little bit of a Japanese TRPG sensibility added, and a whole lot of influence and attitude derived from Yuuyake Koyake. Thus, it’s a game of bold, stylized, heartwarming adventure, with cute girls, beautiful women, square-jawed heroes, and strange aliens. Unlike a lot of my other games, it’s not based on a particular genre or range of actual titles (though My Life as a Teenage Robot is probably the closest to what I’m going for) so much as a general attitude and aesthetic. That also means that getting the right artwork–with some of that amazing confidence and fluidity of line–is going to be critical for making the final product work.

The biggest change I’ve made to the game in my renewed enthusiasm for this game is to make all of the characters be pregens. It saves me some work making up extra Shticks (basically the same thing as Stunts in SotC), it reinforces the “pick-up role-playing” aspect of the game, and they’re just plain fun to work on (especially when I can give them names like Jenny Jetstream and Rick Fireball). Each character also has only three Aspects and three Shticks, to keep the character concepts simple and tight and give PCs a few interesting tricks to try. Billy Smith, the Plucky Kid who’s a Deputy Space Agent, has my favorite Aspect in the game so far: “Hey, mister, what’re you doing?” Coming up with Shticks that are flavorful and useful yet don’t at all relate to anything violent is really fun but very challenging too, as it runs against the grain of what we’re used to for RPGs. (Yuuyake Koyake is quite impressive in this regard, and I’m going to spare you the whining I could be doing about how hard it’s been to come up with clique-based Talents for Slime Story.)

I also finally finished the episode creation tables. The idea is that in order to very quickly plan out a scenario, the GM can use playing cards to get elements from three different oracle-like tables (Who’s in trouble? What’s their problem? What space thing is involved?), which of course meant I had to come up with 156 different story elements. The tables are packed with references that range from obscure (“Mo-Ran, a Robot Monster”) to silly (“Stephen, an arrogant talk show host”) to personal (a few people I know are subtly mentioned in there). On the whole I’m really happy with the result. I tried it out to make a sample scenario, and I got “Cindy, a veterinarian who loves animals very much,” “Something important has gone missing,” and “The Men In Black, secret agents that try to cover up weird stuff.” Hence, the MIBs carried off one of Cindy’s patients because they mistook him for a missing alien diplomat.

I still need to think more about the overall rules. In particular, the game is meant to be mostly non-violent, and while I’ve made a point to avoid Shticks that serve violent purposes (hence I’ve gotten rid of Jenny Jetstream’s “Ray Gun” shtick), I’ve left in Conflict rules (albeit a very simplified version of the Awesome Adventures version of FATE), I’m not sure how or even if I could/should enforce nonviolence in the rules. Yuuyake Koyake strongly cautions against violence, and I think the rules make it uninteresting and unrewarding.

Anyway, all of that means that playtesting won’t be too far off, and I’m really looking forward to giving the game a try.

3-Hit Combo!

Shatter The Wall Between Zero and Infinity!
I’ve well and truly gotten started on my fighting shonen manga RPG. I’ve tentatively titled it “Zero Breakers” (zero like “wandering the void between zero and infinity” and like Yaruki Zero Games). I’ve mostly been typing up the stuff that was already in my head and my notebook, but it’s going pretty smoothly so far. Assuming it doesn’t manage to completely come apart at the seams, I think I may be on the way to designing my dream game. And I think it’s starting to look more and more like a diceless technicolor cousin of Dogs in the Vineyard. OTOH I think it may actually turn out to be a great game for playing online (which I’ll definitely have to try once it’s ready).

And incidentally, I just found out that Christian Griffen is working on a somewhat similar game, called Anima Prime. I’ll have to find time to read through it, though from a casual skim its overall approach is a bit different from Zero Breakers (it uses dice for one thing).

Breaking Molds
Adventures of the Space Patrol has been kind of an unusual project for me in that while I have a certain look and feel in mind, and although I’ve certainly been putting all the B-movie cliches rattling around my noggin to good use, it’s not particularly based on something from another medium. I’m wondering if I haven’t been too beholden to source material in the past. AotSP has been an unusually easy and fun project to work on, though it helps that the rules are like a mashup of FATE 3.0 and Yuuyake Koyake, off the shelf components rather than all-original stuff. Of course, I get so much inspiration from outside sources that I wouldn’t dream of abandoning that approach, but I think I need to be more able and willing to come to projects from other angles. This is especially true considering that I tend to latch onto a genre and spend an inordinate amount of time (and sometimes money) immersing myself into it. The number of hours of sentai I’ve watched for Tokyo Heroes is literally well into the triple digits, for example. AotSP could easily have had me trying to absorb and imitate endless hours of Buck Rogers and Commander Cody, and frankly there’s something to be said for not having to spend that much time, however enjoyable, to get things done.

Interstellar Skulduggery!
I have, however, started reading the Lensman series. It’s basically the first space opera epic, and the earlier parts of it came out in the 30s. So far it’s rip-roaring pulpy sci-fi action with dastardly villains, square-jawed heroes, and lovely damsels in a universe of ancient aliens and sometimes literally world-shattering technology. I really want to know why it was allowed to go out of print, though on the plus side I was able to get a hold of the books for relatively cheap. There was a GURPS worldbook for it (and for the longest time I never knew what it was), but I’d love to see a treatment of it with SotC or similar some time.

Assorted Things

So, apparently Malcolm Sheppard has decided to pull the plug on Opening The Dark, for some reason or other. Although strictly speaking I could still use it since it’s OGL, I think I’m going to stick with my original plan to use a ST-ish Fudge variant for Catgirl: The Storytelling Game.

A Certain Japanese Game I’ve been translating will hopefully be moving forward very, very soon. I will have news on it as soon as I am able to reveal such to the public. It’s gonna be neat. :3

For Adventures of the Space Patrol, I basically have the entire outline of the game figured out (it helps that most of it is made from stock parts, after all), though there will no doubt be new challenges popping up as I go along. I had to go in and give some more thought to the selection of archetypes, and finally settled on seven:

  • Atomic Ranger
  • DroidBot
  • Plucky Kid
  • Galactic Spy
  • Space Trooper
  • Astro-Jockey
  • Altarian Engineer

The trick was to focus on what core roles to cover, and then to give them appropriately spacy-sounding names. I’m probably going to write up an appendix, PDF, or whatever of bonus archetypes (Cat Princess, Martian Barbarian, Pleiadeian Mentalist, etc.). More on all that as it comes along. In the meantime, here are some examples of the awesome artwork that so inspires me:

Yet Another New Game: Adventures of the Space Patrol!

I’ve come up with yet another new concept for an RPG, albeit one I think I can bring to fruition without agonizing over how to get things done or letting it slide to the back burner for months or years. It’s (tentatively) called “Adventures of the Space Patrol.”

The original idea came from when I realized that Yuuyake Koyake was in fact named after a children’s song that perfectly describes its mood. I got to wondering what other kinds of games could come from children’s songs, and the first one that came to mind was “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” When I looked up more info on the song, I found out that there’s actually a version with a full five verses, and it speaks of the star as a benevolent light shining to guide travelers in the dark of night.

This line of thought met another halfway. Professional illustrators have a certain style of cartooning that’s at least as stylized as manga, but seldom makes its way into the mainstream (with Erin Esurance and certain Nicktoons being notable exceptions) despite being so dang awesome. I had picked up a book of Shane Glines‘ pinup art (NSFW) from Amazon, and the rather silly (in a good way) picture of a girl in a retro-futuristic jumpsuit holding a raygun got me to thinking in terms of “retro-cute sci-fi.”

I’m starting to think that in creating Yuuyake Koyake, Ryo Kamiya really hit on something important. Video games, especially the simpler ones, boil down to how the designers let you do one or more verbs. Some of the cleverest games come from picking an unusual verb, such as “eat” (Pac-Man) or “roll up” (Katamari Damacy) and running with it. Role-playing games are a little more complicated in that respect, but some really brilliant games have come from this same approach. In Yuuyake Koyake the verb is “help.” It makes non-violent role-playing practical, immediate, compelling, and easy to do. Aitsu wa Classmate (another RPG published by Sunset Games) does this too, and while Elite Beat Agents is a rhythm-action video game, its story is also all about helping people (and occasionally other things). I would really like to see more “good samaritan” games come along in the future, but of course the wonderful thing about RPGs is that if you really want something, you can make it happen yourself.

Put all that together, and we have the makings of a game that has the potential to be really moving, yet doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s a game where a girl in a silver jumpsuit and jetpack can comfort a girl whose mother was in a car accident.

Most of my attempts at game design revolve around a specific genre for which I can cite at least half a dozen specific works, and more often than not nearly all of those are anime/manga. In this respect Adventures of the Space Patrol breaks with that habit, which is probably good for me as a (wannabe) designer. Although I let some Japanese stuff creep in here and there, the game was inspired by a look and feel rather than a book or a TV show, and it’s up to those who play it to feel out how to put together stories, rather than trying to ape something from another medium.

So far the rules are not especially original. They’re rather like a mashup of The Shadow of Yesterday and Spirit of the Century, with some bits of Yuuyake Koyake, In A Wicked Age, and others thrown in for good measure. I’m less concerned with startling originality of rules than I am with making a quick and fun game that expresses the whole “retro-cute sci-fi” thing well. Characters are created by picking archetypes (Atomic Ranger, Martian Barbarian, etc.) and making a few tweaks here and there. It has SotC-style Aspects, but with the addition of “Bonds,” temporary aspects that define how your character connects with the current episode’s major NPCs. If I get it all the way done, I’m definitely going to include a replay and a couple of scenarios in the book, and do my darndest to get some good illustration-style art to go with it.

Another thing is that, although I really haven’t been trying to do it that way, I keep coming up with ideas for games that would be good for pickup play. (The other two are Raspberry Heaven and Dandelion Complex). I think even though I do tend to play long, convoluted campaigns with my friends, really want to be able to just throw a game together without having to worry too much about organizing a bunch of people week after week. Although it’s often rewarding, sometimes I get tired of being a cat-herder.

If I can, I’m going to try to get a version ready for playtest in the next couple of weeks.