Tag Archives: Raspberry Heaven

Raspberry Heaven: Playtest Version 1

So, with the game proceeding at a nice pace, I now have an initial playtest version ready to go. I may be doing my first playtest in the very near future. :3

Get the Raspberry Heaven Playtest Version Here

Writing up episode descriptions turned out to be WAY harder than I expected (though I am kind of out of it because of school starting up…). I’ll definitely have to work on that more as I go along. Anyway, any and all feedback is greatly, tremendously appreciated.

Ichigo Mashimaro Characters
Okay, here goes:

Chika
Diligent
Tsukkomi
Plain

Miu
Boke
Genkisugi
Space Cadet

Matsuri
Delicate
Naive
Timid

Ana
Complex (English)
Nice
(crap I don’t know what the third one should be)

Nobue
Lazy
Obsession (Cute Stuff)
Obsession (Smoking)

Raspberry Heaven: On The Act of Role-Playing

Now that I’m in a mood for game design, I’ll no doubt continue posting here excessively until I get caught off-guard by something else.

Right now I’m really liking how Raspberry Heaven is turning out. We’ll have to see if I keep liking it after I do some playtesting, but that’ll have to wait a little while. The game mechanics are actually very simple — with the possible exception of the descriptions of quirks they could probably fit on one page — but it’s more the attitude towards role-playing that game brings to bear that I’m liking a lot.

The other day I finally finished reading a book called The Effective Use of Role-Play, by Morry van Ments. It’s an overview of role-playing as used as an educational tool, and as I’d hoped it helped me reexamine some of the underlying processes of role-playing. Educational role-plays are generally bound by realism, and are carried out in order to either train students in sensitivity, or let them practice certain social activities (like interviewing). As van Ments presents it, there is a huge emphasis on “debriefing,” discussing the role-playing session and its implications with the students. He advocates debriefings that are 2-3 times as long as the actual role-play, and notes that they also serve to help the students leave their assumed roles behind. While of course I wouldn’t go to that extreme for a non-educational role-play, I find that a certain amount of cooling down (and warming up) is helpful and natural.

Of particular interest to me was a section called “Beating the system,” which touches on issues that have become more and more pertinent in my own actual play. It’s impossible to fill in every possible detail no matter what kind of role-playing you’re doing, so to a certain extent it falls to the role-players to fill in the gaps here and there. In a highly traditional RPG (I know, I’m generalizing), the players have input through their character’s histories and actions, and everything else is the purview of the Game Master. In practice, my group has gradually blurred the line over time. This is especially true when it comes to whether a PC can do things “off-camera,” announcing an action retroactively, even if it’s something trivial and only impacts the “social flow” of the PCs. In a sense, this sort of fits with how some forms of narrative appear to flow, and I think it’s actually a pretty complex issue that merits exploration on its own.

For Raspberry Heaven, there’s no GM or other central authority figure to act as gatekeeper, and I’m not sure adding hard and fast rules to govern narrative input (as has been used very successfully in some other games) is really what it needs. Instead, I wound up with a set of principles guiding story input, aimed at both keeping the game on track in terms of genre (slice of life anime high school girls) and group consensus:

  1. This game lacks any kind of fantastic/genre elements. If it doesn’t fit into a normal slice-of-life high school story, it also doesn’t belong in the game. No one gets any magic powers or anything like that.
  2. Regardless of who has authority over a given aspect of the game, everyone should be willing to give and receive ideas and advice.
  3. The overall game/story belongs to the group. Elements that impact the big picture should be decided in accordance with a group consensus.
  4. The tutor has authority over the general contents of scenes he or she is running.
  5. The individual player has authority over the specifics of his or her character. Do not invent anything about another player’s character without consulting them first. Characters mostly start off as strangers and become friends, so there should be relatively little in the way of pertinent past events to invent in the first place.
  6. “Off-camera” action (things that take don’t take place in the context of an actual scene) should be minimal and inconsequential.
  7. Actions that are obviously difficult and/or have far-ranging consequences should be treated as challenges (i.e., where the dice are rolled) if at all possible, assuming they’re appropriate for the game in the first place.

Lucky Star Characters
Now, as I mentioned before, here’s the stats for the Lucky Star characters. It’s just the four main characters for now; once it gets going the series has a fairly large cast, actually. After that I’ll do Ichigo Mashimaro. ^_^

Konata
Obsession (otaku)
Physically Gifted
Lazy

Tsukasa
Innocent
Lazy
Timid

Kagami
Diligent
Tsukkomi
Tsundere

Miyuki
Busty
Genius
Nice

The Status of My Games

I have no idea who I picked it up from, but I came down with a cold the day after I got back from GenCon. On the plus side, I also came back feeling inspired about gaming in general, so it’s time to look at my various back burner projects and figure out where I am and what I need to do. The most important thing, unquestionably, is that I need to make much more of an effort to playtest the stuff I create.

Raspberry Heaven
Today I finally finished typing up the descriptions of Quirks. I need to fill in a few things here and there, but at this point the only thing I really need to to for playtesting is have a single episode write-up ready to play. I actually slipped some elements of this game into a weird dream episode of my Divine Machine campaign (a long-term dimension hopping game using OVA), but the rules never really came into play. I’m trying to do a “Bonus Indie Gaming Night” kind of thing with my friends, and I think the first real playtest of RH will come after The Mountain Witch.

Anime Dreams
I looked through what I currently have the other day, and I’m thinking that I’m closer to having it testable than I realized. Mostly I need to work a little on how I’m presenting what I’ve already got, and maybe do a little bit of trimming. The game is essentially a conflict engine, a diceless version of games like DitV, FATE, PDQ, TSOY, etc., and while the setting creation rules have the potential to be really interesting, they’re a distraction from getting the engine running.

I also want to come up with a more evocative title. In no particular order, here are some titles and bits and pieces thereof that I came up with:
Anime Stars
Defenders of Tokyo
Dreaming of the Sunrise
Round Zero
Zero Saga
Zero Requiem
Zero Spark
Sea of Miracles
Starlight Breaker(s)
Raging Heart(s)
S, R, J, Super, Z, A’s, Zero, 1/2, +
Soul
Striker(s)
Code
Sparking
100%
Unlimited
Infinite

Tokyo Heroes
I think I mentioned this before, but Filip sent me literally 8 pages of feedback. I know more or less what I want to do with the game — an overhaul to make it much, much less handwavey — but it’s going to be pretty time-consuming. The main thing is I’m going to delineate game session structure according to kishoutenketsu as mentioned before, which in turn will require retooling several other widgets in the game to match. In particular, I want to take a cue from the GUMSHOE system and put the emphasis on when and how PCs find clues, rather than rolling dice to see if they figure things out.

Slime Story
I came up with this setting idea ages ago (and even put it in an episode of Divine Machine), and I’ve been wanting to do it in RPG form, either as a setting or an independent game. Right now I’m thinking I want to create a game that uncomfortably marries simple hack-and-slash with hippie/story game stuff about the protagonists’ hopes and dreams in the face of a bland reality brightened only by the monster hunting hobby that they’ll eventually have to give up. It’s still very much in the preliminary stages, and I honestly have no idea how I’m going to tackle the latter part of the game’s concept.

Thrash 2.0
The eternally delayed, hope to do it some day second edition of Thrash. Every time I get even remotely motivated Real Life starts dumping stuff on me, plus my tastes have changed enormously since I wrote Thrash in my first year of college, and while I still want to make a game-y hand-to-hand combat thing, I find assigning lots of points to be bland and cumbersome. I’m thinking that characters should just have set selections of maneuvers (say, 3 Special Moves and 1 Super to start with), and applying similar simplification all the way through. I’ve lost count of how many total rewrites I’ve done, but if I go this route it’ll be yet another.

we are flat
This is intended to be an anthology of three short-form games inspired by Superflat: Moonsick, Magical Burst, and Black Hole Girls. Right now it’s WAY on the back burner. Each game is going to be radically different from the others, and require its own development cycle.

Raspberry Heaven: Quirks

In terms of the game’s rather simple mechanics, Raspberry Heaven characters are defined by a set of three “Quirks” chosen by the player. So far it looks like I have a good selection of quirks figured out, considering it was pretty easy to figure out the quirks for the Azumanga Daioh cast.

Here’s the current list of quirks:
Baka, Boke (clown), Busty, Complex, Cool, Cute, Delicate, Diligent, Feral, Gaijin, Genius, Genkisugi (hyper-active), Innocent, Jock, Lazy, Nice, Obsession, Physically Gifted, Plain, Slow, Softy, Space Cadet, Timid, Tsukkomi (straight-man), Tsundere (here), Worldly

So, here’s my attempt at the Azumanga Daioh cast. Note that Kaorin is a “wallflower” character and is supposed to get less Quirks, and also that teachers are assumed to be good at whatever their main subject is.

Chiyo (Mihama Chiyo)
Cute
Innocent
Genius

Kagura
Baka
Jock
Softy

Osaka (Kasuga Ayumu)
Space Cadet
Slow
Delicate

Sakaki
Cool
Softy
Physically Gifted

Tomo (Takino Tomo)
Boke
Genkisugi
Baka

Yomi (Koyomi Mizuhara)
Tsukkomi
Diligent
Complex (Weight)

Nyamo-sensei (Kurosawa Minamo)
Diligent
Nice
Tsukkomi

Yukari-sensei (Tanizaki Yukari)
Lazy
Worldly
Boke

Kaorin
Obsession (Sakaki)
Plain

Next time, Lucky Star. :3

起承転結

Since it’s looking like it’s going to become an important part of two of the games I’m working on, I decided to write up a blog post about kishoutenketsu (起承転結). Kishoutenketsu is a four-act structure commonly used in Japan. Although it originally derives from Chinese poetry, it has been applied to all sorts of longer works, including novels and manga. The four stages are introduction, development, climax (or turn), and resolution. Just like the three-act structure (set-up, confrontation, resolution) more commonly used in the West, it is ultimately just a model, and it certainly can’t be used to explain the structure of every story out there.

On the other hand, there’s the case of yon-koma (four-panel) manga. These are comic strips consisting of four vertical panels, and are more or less Japan’s version of our newspaper comic strips (which, possibly not coincidentally, are mostly three panels). When you examine yon-koma comics from the point of view of kishoutenketsu, more often than not the panels correspond exactly to the four-act structure, wrought in miniature. In case you’re wondering I learned about this through (1) a fan-translation of Welcome to the NHK, which mentioned kishoutenketsu in a footnote, and (2) a how to draw manga book I saw at a store and have never been able to find since.

Anyway, with Raspberry Heaven most of the source material (notably Azumanga Daioh and Lucky Star) started off as yon-koma manga. Even when I come up with a good idea I usually need some prodding in the right direction, so it wasn’t until Jake Richmond egged me on that I came up with a good idea for how to use it in this game, and in a way that will hopefully make the game that much better. Essentially it’s going to be a part of the rules structure for how scenes are set up and run. The four phases are:

  1. Ki/Introduction: The player sets up and initiates the scene.
  2. Shou/Development: The group commences role-playing.
  3. Ten/Climax: The scene comes to a head, and a “challenge” (a thing that requires rolling dice) happens.
  4. Ketsu/Resolution: A little more to bring the aftermath of the climax into the game, and to close up the scene.

With Tokyo Heroes (at Filip’s urging) I’m also planning to use it, albeit on a different scale. As a genre, sentai has a relatively rigid plot structure, so the four acts could correspond fairly tightly to the stages of the story of a standard episode, with mechanical effects (or a lack thereof) appropriate to each.

  1. Ki/Introduction: The game starts, with the heroes doing something ordinary (for them) that, though they don’t know it yet, is going to lead into this week’s conflict.
  2. Shou/Development: The inciting incident hits. The heroes have to do whatever investigating is necessary to be ready for this week’s battle. For this I’m thinking of taking a cue from Gumshoe/Esoterrorists, and making it more about how the PCs find clues rather than if.
  3. Ten/Climax: The battle finally happens for real. The heroes go all-out and beat the monster of the week.
  4. Ketsu/Resolution: The game goes a little further, to establish what happens after the monster is defeated. The people affected by it turn back to normal, the girl it kidnapped is freed, etc. The heroes go back to base and things settle down. Credits roll. Preview plays.

Raspberry Heaven is coming together fast enough that I might actually be able to playtest it before the month is up. With Tokyo Heroes it’s kind of a different story in that Filip sent me a LONG e-mail (8 pages when I printed it out) with a blow-by-blow critique. It’s been tremendously helpful, but it’s required me to rethink some very basic parts of the game’s structure, and a massive rewrite is in order before I do more playtesting.

(Some day I’ll work on Thrash 2.0 again…)

Yarukimantan: Raspberry Heaven

Now that my freelance translation stuff is mercifully done (for now), I want to get back into doing creative stuff over what’s left of the summer, including getting back into the swing of things with game design. Although I need more time to think about my Slime Story idea, I wound up coming up with a new game idea that while not groundbreaking per se is definitely promising and doable. There’s nothing quite like it as far as I know, and it’s not so ambitious that I’m worried about (a) whether I can actually finish it, or (b) whether the end result will be complicated enough to be a pain to get fine-tuned. More importantly, I’m actually excited about it.

Raspberry Heaven (bonus points if you get the reference) is meant to be a game about Japanese high school girls, but where Panty Explosion has them being mean to each other (plus the occasional exploding head), this would be about fun, everyday stuff. It’s Azumanga Daioh, Lucky Star, Ichigo Mashimaro, or Hidamari Sketch (take your pick) with the serial numbers filed off. Basically, a light-hearted slice of life kind of thing. I’m still working out how the rules will function, but I’m thinking the end result is going to look like a mashup of The Shab-al-Hiri Roach and Best Friends, but with a general feel more akin to Yuuyake Koyake. It’ll most likely be GM-less, something I’ve been wanting to experiment with anyway, and revolve around the players setting up scenes, very much like in the Roach.

It’s still very much in the preliminary stages, so while I have a rough idea of how I think the overall game will work, lots of things are up in the air, and there are lots of bits that I’m looking forward to discovering how I’m going to make them work. Of the four anime titles I mentioned above, three were originally done as yonkoma (4-panel) manga, so one wacky idea would be to somehow fit the four stages of kishoutenketsu (起承転結; introduction, development, climax, resolution) into the game somehow.

Update: Started a thread in the Forge’s First Thoughts forum.