Just ran a "one-shot" (it's going to slip into a second session) and it went really well! Granted it's a group I've played with before and people who have very similar sensibilities as me so it was stacked in my favor, but it basically played out as a best case scenario of what I was expecting, so I'm really happy about it. For the most part the mechanics worked well; I'm sure they could be refined further but the core of it worked well. The players were able to understand the abilities and the karma system, and I really liked how an encounter could be framed either as a Save challenge or a "Combat" and how that affects how things play out, that was probably the stand-out part of it imo even if someone were not at all interested in the setting or the karma system.
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I've been working on the core rules and character creation stuff. I've now got four Poltergeist Forms, which are kind of like Failed Careers in Electric Bastionland. Every character rolls their abilities (except Karma, I've decided at least until I've tested it out to have Karma default to 3 for new characters), a career (broad category), a regular special item (I've only written a few so far), and a Poltergeist Form. For their Poltergeist Form, they roll 1 Quirk, 2 Starting Karmic Attachments, 1 Reincarnation Ritual, and 2 Poltergeist Items or Abilities.
I hope the Poltergeist Forms as concepts are coherent and interesting and not too... I dunno, intense (?)
This conversation has been really helpful, thank you. Here's tentatively what I'm thinking for advancement:
A character must resolve at least one Karmic Attachment and bring Karma down to 1 in order to level up and gain (some bonus). If a character would become an ashura, they can instead level down (and Karma defaults to 5).
The idea being that you have to gain Karma in order to do stuff, and it empowers you (given the Karma Roll affecting degree of success), but then to ever actually advance, you have to resolve karmic attachments and impair yourself (less likely to fill succeed in any roll). You have to be willing to give up that material attachment. For this to work, resolving Karmic Attachments needs to divest more karma than is accrued by taking the attachment and/or I need to think of other ways Karma can be divested, but I'm ok with that.
And then, I like the idea that you can level down instead of becoming an ashura. It creates a buffer if a character gets in over their head, it's consistent with the themes of the setting, and because you'll be at a high Karma you're not significantly impaired, but it's going to take longer to bring your Karma all the way back down just to level back up to where you were before, making yourself weaker as you lower your Karma, which again feels fitting with the themes. It should be easy to gain Karma or level down, and enticing to do so, and difficult to resolve karmic attachments and divest their Karma. A player must divest their own Karmic Attachments if there is any hope for their character to do so ;).
So I'm thinking that in place of Failed Careers / Starter Packages, there will be something like Poltergeist Forms, the form they would take in one of the Numberless Courts of Hell if they died, prior to reincarnating, if they for-real died, but these will include some items or abilities and a short roll table if starter karmic attachments, all of which tie into the theme of the Poltergeist form and collectively should give a GM an idea of what some Karmic Attachments might look like. Probably for this initial release I'll just do a handful. Then there will also be roll tables for Karmic Attachments that aren't as specific to a character but are more like quests or things the party can interact with. So you can still sandbox to an extent, but if you're really mucking about without resolving anything, you're going to accumulate too much karma. This whole thing is loosely inspired by my vague recollection of Tenra Bansho Zero, but in a way they're also kind of like aspects in Fate.
I'm glad you appreciate the ritual idea. That was also part of my thinking; reincarnation is a central concept of this game and setting, but I also want there to be real stakes where characters can die, besides just becoming an ashura (although that is also basically like dying). Of course, if they die but don't become an ashura, they could still potentially be found as a Poltergeist in one of the Numberless Courts and rescued, if someone in the party can afford that Karmic Attachment...
wrt Abilities, I was trying to find a balance between flavor and clarity. I had considered using actual terminology and specific concepts from Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, but that seemed overly limiting, beyond my purview, and too difficult to use. Instead, the three attributes broadly represent these philosophies (Nature <-> Buddhism, Wisdom <-> Taoism, Propriety <-> Confucianism), but also each represent some aspect of play (Nature <-> Things that are physically or mentally exerting, Wisdom <-> Investigation, noticing, perceiving, willpower, Propriety <-> Charisma, social conflict, mundane tasks in the world). I'm glad you liked the government documents as propriety damage ;).
Ability Armor will most likely just come from items like Armour in Into the Odd, although it might also get tied into some of the character customization stuff I haven't written yet. Your idea of a passport as a form of Propriety Armor is a good example of what I'd be going for, thank you! Very reassuring to see that came across.
The way I'm using Karma in this setting is very different than the American / New Age colloquialism of Karma. It's not about good and evil per se, but about attachment to the material world. The material world is intrinsically flawed, so even if your intentions are good, you are just adding more Karma into this broken system. So unless you want to be an ascetic or nihilist or whatever, you have to find this balance between doing good in the world, because for those of us here in the material world, Black Lives Matter and we need a corona virus vaccine, but also detaching yourself so that you can see reality more holistically (I am trying very hard to avoid saying "spiritually" lol because that's become a kind of loaded and meaningless term).
So in game terms, your Karma goes up when you get involved in new quests and adventures and such (Karmic Attachments), and you get more powerful, but if it goes up too much you become an Ashura (an NPC Karma Devil). So you need to lower your Karma by resolving or divesting yourself of these Karmic Attachments, either by actually resolving them in some capacity, or dying and reincarnating.
Unlike most humans, the PCs have the ability to reincarnate with continuity, meaning they basically come back into existence as if nothing had happened, but only if they kill themselves in a specific ritualistic way. I'm still deciding on the particulars both from a setting perspective and game perspective, but tentatively I'm thinking it'll be something like if they resolve a certain number of Karmic Attachments and then ritualistically kill themselves, they level up mechanically, meaning either they gain some permanent buff, or a new item, or maybe an increase to their Karma Die, and in terms of the setting, it means they're closer to having a "negative karma footprint" so to speak, and closer to exiting samsara, the karmic cycle of death and rebirth, and entering Heaven. Within the context of the setting, this would mean the campaign "levels up" because now they have to save Heaven from the Monkey King, but I'm not at all prepared to start working on that yet, that would basically be like a supplement to a hypothetical full campaign book for this game 0.o...
EDIT: To elaborate further briefly because now I'm getting self-conscious about it (I had originally intended on calling this game KILL YOURSELF: The Karma Punk RPG), my intention with the ritualistic suicide thing is not to trivialize or mock depression and suicidal ideation. In the classic "-Punk" sense, it's meant to subvert your expectations. It's intended more as a metaphor for being able to face yourself, and challenge your perceived identity, to accept "ego death". Being willing to put your weaknesses or failings behind you and grow, and fundamentally change as a person. That's what this game is supposed to be about; about how to manage all of these things- the mundanity of life, the very real problems in the world, and also yourself, and how all of these things are connected and you can't really manage any one of them well without managing all of them, otherwise you're just going to create more problems for yourself or others.
EDIT2: Also superficially the suicide idea was somewhat inspired by Persona 3, where the characters would shoot themselves in the head with this special gun to summon their personas.
Here is a google doc link for a very much WIP draft of Maximum Recursion Depth, my Bastion Jam entry. I would definitely appreciate any comments or suggestions!
Below is a list of what I think are some of the key mechanical differences between MRD and regular ItO / EB:
- More abstracted Abilities.
- Karma instead of HP. Not identical but fills a similar (but more dynamic) role.
- Emphasis on non-combat as combat.
- Damage to Abilities first, Karma second.
I managed to get my pre-covid local group together and we're going to do a zoom game weekend after next. I'm still deciding which version of ItO / EB I want to run, or if I want to go for a hack right from the get-go. I love Super Blood Harvest as a read, but I generally prefer to make my own settings and I don't know how well SBH would work with a different setting (although I guess I could just hack the Dirk Rules). I'm tentatively thinking I want to play in my Maximum Recursion Depth setting, although I'm worried it's a little too personal for a group of IRL friends. It's sort of like The Matrix meets Persona 5 meets Bojack Horseman meets Chinese Mythology / Journey to the West.
If I do that, I'll probably make it a fairly tightly-constrained scenario, where the characters will be largely auto-generated or pre-made. Likely a key feature will be their Poltergeist form / Karmic Attachment. The scenario would involve them in one of the Numberless Courts of Hell for some reason, with some mission that they need to get done and then escape / reincarnate.
Another idea I'm having is an emphasis on non-combat combat. Basically splitting damage into STR DAMAGE, DEX DAMAGE, and CHA DAMAGE (or whatever I decide the three stats to be). All three affect HP the same way, but if HP is reduced to 0, they then affect their respective attribute.
Still very much in the brainstorming / spitballing phase, but any suggestions, advice, thoughts, etc. appreciated!
So, I've read several ItO / EB-related books such as Super Blood Harvest, Death is the New Pink, Silent Titans, Mutants of Ixx, and Maze Rats, and also follow Chris' blog. I've been meaning to read ItO / EB-proper for forever but I am a bad person who has a mental block around buying anything that doesn't have a red slash and a lower number next to the normal cost (and yes I know there's a free version but still...).
From everything I've read / seen / heard, the system seems like something I would mostly really like (minus a few quibbles but nothing major), but I still have not played it. However, I'm pretty well-versed in OSR and the tabletop RPG scene more broadly and think I have a reasonable grasp on it.
I joined this jam partially as a way to force myself to learn more about ItO / EB since it seems like one of the most interesting developments in tabletop RPGs in several years (or so I think) and partially to force myself to take a stab at producing something for the first time in a while.
That being said, I've got not a lot of time to get comfortable enough with the system to produce something for it, so does anyone have any suggestions for the quickest way for me to "figure it out" in time to do this?
For reference about me, my blog is weirdwonderfulworlds.blogspot.com where you can see the kinds of things I've done, what I'm interested in, how I think about RPGs, etc.
I've produced a single game, pixels & platforms, which is available on itch and I believe I originally produced it for another jam, and it's loosely based on lasers & feelings. It definitely needs more play-testing and more content but I'm relatively happy with it in its current form, for what it is. If possible, I would like to produce for this jam something of roughly the same scope and quality.
To follow up further, if you have any interest in tabletop RPGs at all, not just this one, please let me know! It's a lot of fun, and especially right now during covid, a lot of people are playing online and it's a fun activity to do with your friends.
Obviously there's this RPG here, or lasers & feelings which it is based off of which is super simple and is linked in the description for this game. Despite the popularity of Dungeons & Dragons, I actually wouldn't necessarily recommend the current edition, as it's fairly complicated (and also not my personal preference), but if you did want to start with D&D 5th Edition it's certainly doable. There's an RPG called Fate which I think is another good introduction RPG. There's a website, drivethrurpg.com, which is kind of like the steam or itch for tabletop RPGs, selling mostly digital, but also some print options. Pixels & Platforms is not available on drivethrurpg, but plenty of other great games are available on itch and drivethrurpg.
You can read more about my thoughts on tabletop RPGs at weirdwonderfulworlds.blogspot.com
Alternatively, you can check out r/rpg on reddit, or any number of other rpg subreddits such as r/osr (focused on old-school D&D). Also, I have a blog list on my blog with many other awesome tabletop rpg-related blogs. If you're the type, there's a whole rabbit-hole for you.
It's more like dungeons and dragons, except much simpler. You don't necessarily need to print it, although you'd probably want a grid mat to draw the platforms on. There are plenty of online tools for this sort of thing as well.
A micro-Tabletop RPG primarily for one-shot adventures inspired by retro 2D platformer video games.
The rules of Pixels & Platforms are inspired by the tabletop RPG Lasers & Feelings by John Harper, but build upon that framework for a somewhat more complex game.
Pixels & Platforms uses three attributes, and is designed to emulate the feel of retro 2D platformer videogames in tabletop form. This is a game of Platform Crawling; where a Stage is like a dungeon and each Screen is a puzzle platforming challenge!
It is available as PWYW, so give it a look!
I published and submitted it! I realized I'm probably not going to have time to make substantial changes before the deadline, so decided to just put it out there! I know it still needs further development, but I hope people enjoy it even as it currently is!
After a playtest that went really poorly, I'm feeling significantly worse about my game at this point than I'd like, to the point that I considered not even submitting it. I think there were some extenuating circumstances around that playtest, and I think the core of the game still is what I want it to be, and I've made some significant changes to the game, but I'm just not going to have the time to do as much playtesting as I'd need to get it to where I want it to be in time.
However, I mentioned before that I commissioned a piece of art for the game, and it looks amazing, so I decided I'm still going to publish it, I was already planning on publishing it PWYW anyway, and I'll update it as I get more testing and can refine it over time. I'm just a little frustrated still, but hopefully people will check it out and tell me what they think and maybe it'll come together the way I want it to soon.
Playtest over the weekend sadly didn't work out :(, but hoping to run a playtest soon. I've also commissioned a piece of art for the itch.io thumbnail that will hopefully attract people to the game. I've worked with this artist before and he does good stuff so I think it'll be good. Should be finished by the 24th and then I'll submit!
Thank you everyone for all of this advice! I've chosen to commission a piece from an artist on fiverr who I've worked with before and does good work, because I just don't have much skill or passion for visual design. We haven't finalized the deal yet so if it falls through for some reason then I will make a mad-dash with some of this advice haha, but if this commission does work out, I think it'll look really good.
Hi, I'm Max! I'm a Data Engineer in NYC, and I've been writing a worldbuilding / RPG blog for around a year now, Weird & Wonderful Worlds. I've been wanting to publish for a long time now but was always intimidated and never took the plunge, so I'm super appreciative of this jam. I think I've got a fun game planned that's on-track to publish soon, and I'm really excited to finally be able to say I've published a game, regardless of how it's received.
I was getting really frustrated with the fragmentation of the RPG community and these hostilities between storygames and OSR, and SWORDDREAM really appealed to me as being a place for fresh perspectives and a community for openness and positivity. I hope this all ends up going well and injects some much needed energy and diversity into the scene.
Incidentally, I relatively recently made an "Unofficial by design" subreddit for SWORDDREAM. Right now it's a really small community, a place mainly for people to share their works, which is totally cool, but I hope it can become a place for respectful discussion as well.
So I've never published a game before and have no visual art or graphic design skills! The version of my game, Pixels & Platforms, that I'll be publishing for DREAMJAM is artless (maybe I'll commission art for a "Deluxe" addition in the future), but I'm pretty happy with the layout and presentation otherwise (although I'm sure it could be better).
That being said, I'd like to at least make a simple logo / "cover art" for the game to get it noticed and to make the itch.io page look better, but I'm struggling really hard with how to do it. I've considered scraping something together using open source pixel art from Open Game Art, but again, no visual design skills.
I've also tried finding an online logo generator with an appropriate text or font-style, but haven't found anything free that I felt good about. How do people make their logos / cover arts?!
I'm working on a game loosely based on Lasers & Feelings called Pixels & Platforms, meant to evoke the sensibilities of retro-2D platformer videogames such as Super Mario, MetroidVania, and Megaman. While it's dice mechanic is largely based on Lasers & Feelings, I imagine it as being like a puzzle-platformer, sort of combining "storygame" and "gamist" sensibilities.
Here's a commentable link if anyone wants to give it a look! I'm hoping to have it ready for publishing within the next week or so!
Also, I'm planning on running a playtest this weekend over discord and could use one or two more players, so if you're interested please let me know!