Tag Archives: Slime Story

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.)

Slime Story Design Journal: New Stuff

Now that NaNoWriMo is finally out of the way (and I’m starting to recover from such), I’ve started working on Slime Story again. Here’s a quick look at what I’m working on right now.

Elective Talents
Playtest Version 2 just had the Base Talents of each class and clique (which I’m refining a bit), but I’ve started working on the “elective talents” that players get to choose themselves for their protagonists. These are an aspect of the game that’s at once interesting and tedious. They have an element of exception-based design, so I get to figure out a bunch of different ways for characters to bend the existing rules in interesting ways. On the other hand, writing up well over a hundred of the things can get to be a bit of a slog after a while.

I had been toying with an idea for “Talent Pools,” and having each class and clique give you access to a couple of pools, but I wound up just having separate sets of talents for each class and clique, which also lets me customize the abilities of the different character types much better.

Vignettes
This is probably the most important change in terms of how the game plays, and it’s my attempt to address the issue of interludes not involving much role-playing. During an interlude players can create “vignettes,” short scenes in the overall story. These can take place a bit in the past or even the future relative to the monster hunting run going on in the game, which will makes it much easier to involve secondary characters without contriving to have them show up during a hunting session. More importantly, you pretty much can’t do an active action in an interlude without wrapping it in a vignette of some kind, though there’s quite a bit of freedom in terms of what kind of active action a given vignette can take you to.

I’m still not sure how Crafting (making or modifying items) will fit into things. It doesn’t seem like something that would make for good vignettes, and I may just separate crafting from the Action Point economy.

Terrain Variations
This is a simple but interesting little rule, which basically lets you add special properties to positions on the battlefield map. It’s kind of an obvious idea when you think about it, and the kind of thing where adapting the relatively simple concept to the rules’ abstractions is kind of neat. I can make little cards for the GM to lay down on the battlefield map, a random table of terrain setups, and customized maps with those setups already on them. On top of that, I can do a bunch of neat stuff with certain monsters and items affecting the terrain variations.

Portal Flora
I’ve made a small but interesting change to the setting, which is that the portals also deposit immobile plants from time to time. My grandmother recently passed away, but a little before that I gave her an audio recording of the prologue to Slime Story: The Legend of Doug. She had a dream where there were trees that produced amber. People took the amber from the Mother Tree, and all the other trees wept and created a flood, but the Father Tree sheltered them. Under the circumstances I couldn’t not do something with the idea.

“Portal flora” include those amber trees (though taking the valuable “portal amber” tends to attract angry monsters), but also herbs and other plants with special properties similar to monster parts, dangerous plants like razor ivy, and “monster grass,” which herbivorous monsters seem to particularly like. These also add to the variety of terrain variations.

I’m contemplating some kind of rule for “foraging” (not sure if that’s the right term), seeking out useful stuff from portal flora, abandoned monster parts, etc., but it runs into the same difficulties as crafting.

Monster Variations
These are basically Slime Story’s version of d20 monster templates, and a way to use different combinations to expand the range of possible monsters. In terms of the setting, there are certain plants, parasites, symbionts, mutations, etc. that can substantially change what a monster is like. A monster that eats a certain portal fauna shrub becomes a berzerker, certain monsters get a fire aura if they somehow eat a salamander crystal, and there can be mundane stuff like a stumpy that inhabits a metal trash can instead of a tree stump can take more damage.

Slime Story: First Playtest Report

Yesterday I finally ran the first playtest of Slime Story. For a first run I think it was very encouraging, though it definitely needs more work. The 2d6+Attribute mechanic does seem to work well, and having Fumbles on snake eyes and criticals on double 6s adds an oddly nice random element.

(Incidentally, I’ve cross-posted on The Forge and Story Games Praxis about a particular element I think I need outside help on.)

Character Creation
Making character was a bit time-consuming, but basically painless. I think combining a clique and class to get your character worked well, and buying gear was the most time-consuming part. Of course, I haven’t implemented non-Base Talents, which would add another element of choice-paralysis.

I had changed how you handle character ownership from an earlier draft without changing how you initialize character connections to match, and wound up giving each character a flat 2 connection ranks to assign as desired. That was still kind of time-consuming, though I’m not sure that’s avoidable apart from changing where that element fits into the session.

Rita by StreyCat

Encounters
The encounter rules seem to work well overall, and from here on out it’ll be a matter of refining rather than rewriting. The abstract range system and the system of actions and attacks and such seem to have worked pretty well, but with a group of 5 hunters the monsters were never much of a threat. They fought a bunch of squishies, then two salamanders, then a mixed group of two shadow dogs and three stumpies.

  • Suichi’s monster tamer character wound up being at a severe disadvantage. I need to figure out a better metric for selecting pet monsters, and having the tamer and monster have independent initiative slots makes it so the pet monster too often winds up just sitting there. I’m thinking Monster Tamers need a Base Talent to assist their monsters better.
  • Monsters die pretty quickly. On the one hand I don’t want combats to drag on, but on the other hand they’re dropping like flies and not having a chance to do much. With their current HP totals there would have to be more of them per encounter or something.
  • The only time monsters won a Positioning Check was when the protagonist rolling for the party rolled a fumble (auto-fail). This is partly due to letting PCs Help one another. I’m thinking monsters (and maybe characters in general) will just get a flat bonus for how many they have on their side. Allowing Help on Positioning Checks also means that whoever’s got the second- and third-highest Hunter ratings gets a mark on their connection to whoever has the highest for every single Encounter.
  • Consumable attack items suffer the same problem as alchemy items in D&D4e, which is to say that they’re really expensive for a one-shot attack that can miss.
  • Having Aura attacks (like the salamander’s fire aura) be a Clash actually makes it easier to hit the monster, which is not at all what I’d intended.
  • The Assist action potentially puts you at a disadvantage, especially if you’re dealing with a monster that has a high defense rating.
  • Since I used all common monsters, the players never once had to do a Monster Knowledge check, which in turn made the Geek character’s Monster Encyclopedia talent irrelevant.

Interludes
Interludes, which are meant to carry the lion’s share of the role-playing, were probably the weakest part of the game. Some of that came from the fact that we had too many secondary characters that weren’t particularly involved in monster hunting, plus I think I as the GM wasn’t trying hard enough to drive the role-playing oriented elements. I’m not sure what exactly needs to happen with this part of the game. We weren’t in fact playing it quite how the rulebook suggests, but then it wasn’t a difficult mistake to make.

Some of it is that I need to try to as the GM to do more RP-oriented stuff with the existing rules, but I’m thinking it might also be a good idea to put something in the rules to push towards role-playing. I really have no idea what that would be though.

Conclusions
On the whole a good start, but I’ve got a fair amount of writing, revising, and brainstorming to do before I do another serious playtest. There were also a fair number of elements we didn’t touch on, including achievements and social conflicts, so we’ll have to see where those go next time.

Slime Story: Playtest Version 2

slime_story_christine

If you’ve been following this blog, then by now you know that Slime Story is my RPG of “teenagers hunting cute monsters for spending money.” Basically, imagine monsters from Ragnarok Online and Maple Story invading American suburbia. I finally have the new playtest document for Slime Story ready to go. It’s very different from–and hopefully altogether better–than the last one.

This game is a weird hybrid of traditional, indie, and Japanese RPG design sensibilities, or to put it another way, Meikyuu Kingdom, D&D4e, and Mouse Guard were all key inspirations (though there’s a long list of others). It has a rigid scene structure (you alternate between encounters and interludes), powers usable depending on the game’s time units, an abstract range map, characters defined by a “class” and “clique,” achievements (kind of like in video games, but a bit free-form), relationship mechanics, and other wacky stuff. It’s also meant to be largely player-led, and protagonists need to define and pursue their own goals.

Playtest Notes
I’m making this playtest draft publicly available so that people can read it and perhaps even try it out. If you do, I want to hear all about it! Tell me what you think, tell me how it plays, and share your war stories! However, it hasn’t been playtested yet AT ALL–I’ll hopefully be rectifying that fairly soon–so some of the stuff that I thought looked good on paper might not work at all.

The playtest version is deliberately incomplete, on account of me not wanting to try to come up with over 100 Talents and 40 or 50 monsters just to wind up having to rewrite them to make up for rules changes. I also left out the supplemental rules chapter (which is meant to have rules for experimental alchemy and quests, amongst other things) because it’s nowhere near ready. There’s enough to sit down and play the game though, and the overall goal at this stage is simply to make sure the basic design is sound.

Tasty, Tasty Files
I’ve put together the necessary materials in PDF form to the best of my ability, though especially for the character sheet I don’t really have the necessary skills to make something great-looking. For action cards, I recommend just using index cards, but most anything will do. Likewise, you can easily substitute miniatures for the battlefield tokens (which at this stage are just a placeholder using dingbat fonts).

Slime Story RPG Rules (Playtest v2) PDF
Protagonist Sheet
Secondary Character Sheets
Battlefield Map
Battlefield Tokens
Rules Quick Reference Sheet

Slime Story Design Journal: Advancement

Slime Story Phoebe

I got kind of lazy with my original version of the character advancement in Slime Story. I did the thing where characters accumulate points and then spend them piecemeal on whatever they want to improve, like in a White Wolf game. (I also did that with Tokyo Heroes by the way.) There was some neat stuff with how you got those points–a combination of video game style achievements, deepening connections with other characters, invoking characters’ issues, and achieving goals–but the way you used them was still just lazy design.

That’s why I’ve wound up giving it a level-based mechanic, which is a bit Savage Worlds and a bit D&D4e. There are one or two other uses for Character Points, so characters don’t level up automatically, but instead spend points to gain levels between episodes. Having what characters gain at what level be predefined makes character growth a little more interesting. There was a time when I disdained classes and levels as artificially limiting, but just throwing points around more or less like in character creation is really boring and lazy (if functional). Levels aren’t the only way to go–not by a long shot–but they seem to be a good fit for Slime Story.

Anyway, this was another one of those things I thought up in the middle of the night and implemented right away. At this point a playtest draft (albeit a simplified one without many Talents or monsters included) will just be a matter of filling in some necessary details, more equipment and such than rules per se. If I don’t get distracted by other stuff (which is a very distinct possibility) I’ll be posting it up in the next week or two and hopefully doing some playtesting myself in the near future.

And Some Other Stuff

  • Guy Shalev has a blog called Geekorner-Geekulture which deals mainly with anime/otaku stuff, including regular features on anime/game/etc. figures (and his obsession with Saber from Fate/Stay Night). Not wanting to start up yet another blog myself, I’ve started contributing posts there, which will all be under the “Ewen’s Corner” tag. Most of these will be reviews of strange manga I’ve read, but my first post is about my experiences commissioning custom plushies.
  • I’ve started a second podcast, called Trapped Inside the Dream Forever. It’s all recordings of my bizarre fiction writing (and probably some of my poetry too at some point). So far it’s updating every Friday, but that’s because I still have a big backlog of stories to record. If anyone thinks they can do better recordings than me and wants to do so, let me know.
  • I may have inspired Ben Lehman to make a new game, for a second time.

Slime Story Design Journal: Bits and Pieces

Since Slime Story has become a very ambitious project that I’m very determined to complete (i.e., turn into a complete, playable, and fun RPG), I’ve decided to start posting “Design Journal” entries so that folks can see the process and maybe get a little more excited about the game. (And maybe offer suggestions too.) I do kind of feel like I’ve been piling lots of bells and whistles onto the game, and I’m wondering if I won’t have to just get rid of some of them depending on how they work out in playtesting, but that’s how it goes, I guess. Here are the major things with the game that are on my mind at the moment:

Encounters
Slime Story’s encounter rules are meant to be a relatively simple tactical game that players can enjoy on its own merits. It’s turned into a sort of D&D4e-light, mixed with bits of Meikyuu Kingdom and a few other things. Characters take turns and can do one Full Action (attacking and other involved stuff) and one Maneuver Action (moving and other actions that help indirectly) per turn.

The Action Stack is a set of cards representing each participant in an encounter. The GM simply shuffles the cards, and that’s the initiative order. (Certain conditions will let characters shift their card up or down in the stack.) The GM simply flips through the cards, and whoever’s card is on top gets to act.

The Battlefield Map is an abstract map with seven spaces arranged vertically. Characters can attack enemies that fall are within a number of spaces based on the Range of their attacks (a typical melee weapon has a range of 0-1, so it can hit enemies in the same area or an adjacent one), and can use a Maneuver Action to move from one area to an adjacent one.

To make both elements work more smoothly, I’m thinking of having a PDF with three sets of generic action cards and battlefield tokens/pawns for monsters (numbers, letters, and symbols), which you can use rather than having to prepare them for each type of monster you want to include in advance.

Right now the main boondoggle with encounters is that I want to have some way for characters to try to get a positional advantage, but I’m not sure how to go about that without having it be too time-consuming or giving too overwhelming of an advantage.

Achievements
Achievements are probably one of my favorite things about the game. Achievements are very much like the things from Xbox 360 and other video game platforms, in that they archive a character’s accomplishments and contribute to his or her overall reputation. In Slime Story, the GM hands them out to players where appropriate during play, and everyone can suggest achievements after the session is over. Characters can “cash in” achievements for Character Points (to improve attributes and buy new abilities) and/or Influence (to buy stuff with).

I have a notion of having achievements cause characters to gradually build up a Renown rating, but I’m not sure what it would actually do in the game.

Happenings
This is the newest thing, which wound up being a combination of a couple different things that were rattling around inside my head. During Interludes (the stuff that goes between encounters, where characters can quarrel, bond, make items, etc.), players have a limited number of Action Points (they get one per Interlude, and each gets one extra AP per episode) to spend on doing stuff. I’ve been wanting to have some mechanism for players to earn more AP if they want/need to. I also had a vague idea of having rules for random events, which the GM would periodically throw in to make things more interesting (so the monster hunters might run into a dead deer, get caught in a sudden downpour, bump into a police officer, get a call from home, etc.). It occurs to me that inconvenient “Happenings,” whether rolled randomly, devised by the GM in advance, or suggested by the people at the table, make an excellent way to both make protagonists’ lives more interesting and give an appropriate “fee” for awarding Action Points.

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