Archives for: March 2010


Permalink 10:28:17 am, Categories: About us, 269 words   English (US)


A short update this week, if you would allow me ...

Couple of information first :
- The first final version of the map has been delivered. It looks great !!!
- I've prepared the informative pages, like I mentioned last week. I took stuff from the teaser and this blog ; no editing, just pasting the text. It comes to 18K word count down. It seems like my 20K word estimation might be wrong.
- Francis is working very hard on the concept of the system. It would come from the solar system, using the "idiomatic" symbols from the chinese philosophy. It works well.

Now, my problem (at least one of them). I'm in a situation where most "positions" are secured : art director, web developer ... but I do have a BIG problem : translation. Not much about the informative pages, but for the text of Avalanche itself, which is a different beast. And why is it a problem ?

Because I intend to release Avalanche is a kind of magazine, with frequent updates. Bringing up new illustrations, maps, systems is not a problem. But the text ? I would need to release part of the text, upcoming weeks of the story frequently. So, I do need a translator, otherwise our (english) customers might find the updates a bit "not enough" and might be inclined to "unsubscribe" ; which would be a bad things for us.

Now, of course, this is long term ; and only a problem if we meet some kind of success. But, I need to assure this position as soon as possible.
Well, I might have found the translator !!! Negotiations are on the way ...



Permalink 07:10:42 pm, Categories: About us, 519 words   English (US)

Informative pages

But first things, first.

Our week-end update :
- You might, or not, know that I'm big fan of TED. Well, anyway, here's a recent, wonderful talk about storytelling. Very compelling, in my opinion. And yes, the speaker talks about movies, but most of it could apply to rpg.
- We found the pattern for the system. We've talked about it for a couple of months now, and it seems clear finally. We also found the name. Oh, by the way, dealing with name and brand is quite a mess, but a lot of fun !!!
- You might remember me presenting you Robert Altbauer as an example of a GREAT master mapper. Well, guess what ? I've commissioned him for Avalanche. I think you'll like it !!! I won't go into any details about the contract, but there are multiples maps in there, one of which will be released under CC. I've seen the draft, and I'll talk more about this shortly.
- The presentation of the project is done. It comes to a total of 16 slides : including the welcome and thanks slide. I'm going to test it with Julie tomorrow, so we'll see if it is understandable. Just note that this week we found that we forgot one layer of IP we had ... We're still in the pattern, but this is a never ending story.
- This is kind of special. I was in vacation this week (yeah !!!) and my boss lend me this book, a whole new mind, by Dan Pink (who did a speech at TED ; which was quite good in fact). What else to say ? You might know the feeling : reading something you already know. The book is not bad in itself ; just a little bit too orientated toward the work place.

Okay, now the purpose of the post. Most of stuff we had to do before the end of march is done. So, what's next ? I mean we need to begin to sell this, no ? What we need are "informative pages" ; my job !!!

What would it look like in the first place ? Here's a draft of the table of content :
- Welcome
-- What is this ?
-- What is rpg ?
-- What does this product will change at your table
- Who are we
-- Genesis
-- Our goal as designer and publisher
-- Iterative process as a product and why
-- Illustrations and map ; system
-- The use of creative common
- The product
-- How to use it
-- The use of systems : which, how
-- the narrative structure (yeah, I know, this is pompous, but I just love the expression)
-- What is an add-on ?
-- What can you actually play ? Or proposed scenarios.
- Advanced concepts
-- The web of events
-- Managing the impact of your players
-- Systems - part two
-- Add your own content
-- Iterative process - part two
- AP post

I hope this is going be around 20K words ; mostly taken from this blog. I need to see with Francis who writes what exactly. And I would need an editor.
Nothing to be so afraid of ...



Permalink 12:02:44 pm, Categories: The goodies, 438 words   English (US)


We've been working on maps, as I said before. I say "we", but it is in fact Francis.

So, let's take a look at what we have so far, but first, please, keep this in mind ; in relation with my previous post about goodies.

Every single piece of "work" we make has a value and is considered a "single component" that can or not, be integrated into the final product. So, we are not, in fact, searching for the "perfect map" as if Avalanche would contain a single map.
In fact, we see each map as having a purpose ; for instance :
- The DM should need one when he discovers Avalanche, reads it for the first time.
- Another one when "using" the product for play (preparation, quick access during play).
- One to be shown to the players in the character creation process.
- Also, when the players would come across maps of the region during play, we believe there should exist various maps : found in a library, in a mage's tower, in an ancient city, in the north. Offering various maps seems logical.

Also, remember that Avalanche is an unfinished product and is sold as is. So, we believe that providing the creative process has values. Don't forget that we want people to be able to "add" components of their own to Avalanche. Showing only the final pieces wouldn't seem like the choice to encourage this.

Okay, now the maps (they all represent the lands of exile) :
1. A couple of years ago, I bought campaign cartographer 2 and decided I needed to draw some maps for Avalanche. This is the map currently on the website. Here it is the CC2 version. Yeah, I know, this map is awful !!! But, it was still useful to produce it. And I won't even tell you the time it took me to did this !!!
2. Two years ago, or so, CC3 came out. I bought it and decided to give the map another chance ; what the hell, why not ? So, here's the CC3 version. Certainly a better version, more useful ; but still, this sucks !!!
3. Here Francis comes in. He does those illustrations by hand ; and yes, he is using my "ugly" maps as reference and find them useful !!! So, here's the first version.
4. Here's the second version.

We're quite happy with them, but now we (yes, Francis again) are working on a new set, using different "tools" to do them.

You may ask me what would be a really great map ? Look at what this guy is doing !!! Quite impressive !!! But then again, even we could attain this quality, we would use the other maps anyway.



Permalink 10:10:49 am, Categories: RPG, 1823 words   English (US)

Introducing Francis

This is Francis' first post on the forge, following up my original AP thread

1-About the game we had
The first 2 sessions were interesting because we introduced 3 new people to rpg, but the game itself was "bugged", if I may say. As a player, I was feeling the world of Avalanche as rich and well detailed, but everything felt "flat". I mean no color and even if my character had some goal in life, he didn't have anything special to do who would justify telling a story. I mean by that : the GM didn't give us (me and the other players, we're feeling the same on this) a lead that would logically forces use to go out of our day-to-day life. No special event forcing us to action. Just like in a movie, introduction – breaking event –first resolution – and so on. Why do I use movie example ? Because every one sees story meanly thru movie now, so it's an easy start for new player.

My point of view of the 2 first games
So we keep our normal life all on our on side, searching for clues in our respective circles about the strange events and persons we witnessed. Trying desperately to find something to put our character in action (I don't mean necessarily fighting) and forcing them to work as a group (making the game more interesting, instead of waiting each turn for small story parts). So we learned a lot about the city and the people in it we were suppose to know (all the characters were people having a lot of circles in the city ; so on this part I think it was a lack of briefing) and of course about the new events and some secrets of the city our players were not able to know before we start.

I think the problem was in the preparation. Most of the people around the table are administrators (except for me) or something like that, so they all speak the same language. I mean, they all agree on a planning of the evening (wtf does it have to do with rpg in the first place) and the time frame for each part. Result : players were rushed to create characters and received very little about the background of Avalanche and specifically about the city of Carcandasse. In other words, we should have use more of the product in the first session. It's natural right ? We should have taken the first evening to create characters, give info about the world, talk more about what game we want to play, what medieval time looks like (many people have very different vision of it, so we need to decide what it's gonna be for use in the game), same things about fantasy and magic (same problem here) but we didn't need more details about what is a rpg ; the players understood very quickly what it was about : telling story with friends is a thing we all did when we were kids, so no problem here.

To follow Sebastien's comments about the game
So to follow what we had been said before, I only saw action in the third game. At the end of the second session, we asked questions to the wrong persona. We wanted to know who raped-tortured-killed the sister of one of the character (a doctor who ran the official honor of our tavern) and we asked the captain of the city guards. He is the cousin of another character (an officer in the guard) and in the first session the character insulted him by showing no respect and telling him he have no honor (oups!); and to make things worse he is the one who kill the poor girls.

So I decided he would try to kill his cousin the same night and get ride of 2 problems that way. So bang! We got right into the action and the night became a night of survival. But the players surprised me and dealt with the thug (the captain didn't want to be linked to the job, so he hired thugs) and, as the boss of the thugs hated the captain, they teamed together to go kill the captain. So we went from "survival night" to assassination night.

My point of views as a GM (Type of player, type of game master, the game,the story, the tempo)

1- Answering questions
A/If Francis is playing "rules light" what is he taking less notice of? Personally I'd not force him to use the full rules for the sake of playtesting, (although as I say I can see the argument) but rather ask him to say exactly what he isn't using, and how what he is using effects his decisions. That way you know how widely to apply insights found in this testing.

First you have to remember we had 3 news players to rpg. They were testing rpg in general ; we were testing BW in particular.
1- all the fighting rules were so different from the basic ones, so I kept fighting like the basic rules.
2- the experience stuff was too much :
A- because I make many « non so essential dice rolls » they would have upgraded their skills too fast.
B- keeping track of each die roll on your characters sheet was too much for them also ; it was breaking the rhythm of the game.
3. The fate, persona, deeds were also too much stuff for them and they didn't need it to help them play their Beliefs and Instincts as they already played it well (they are not power gamer, but new players, so on that part they don't have bad rpg habits).
4. When I called a dice roll I would always say in a general way why I need 3 or 4 success ; no specific evaluation. As long the players don't complain I don't explain myself (keep the rhythm again). If one complained (always Sebastien) I would create explanation then.
5. Because as a game master I also play with my guts instead of my head, I tend to avoid explanations (thus, using my head). Also, note that I feel a story does not need a rational structure. The rational part should be before the game, during preparation.
6. Like Sebastien said before, to me, rpg is « karaoke acting » so all the stuff you use, should help acting. Off course, as some players are more in the 3 persona mode, others prefer 1 person style (actor stance, my personal preference). But to my experience, when things get dirty (big fight for instance) most people switch to first person mode (in stress situation we act, we don't think) and, I think, it creates better story. You know how people tend to do stupid stuff when they don't thinks ? That's what makes a good story (damned it ! did i really just killed the guy ?) !!

So to answer your question what affected my decision is : did this help me give them a good taste of what rpg is about ? No ? I wouldn't use it. Playing a game is not about rules, but how the GM can feel the beat of the game and use the best of each players, just like in theater/movie making, you are a storyteller and an actor director ; but you don't control their decision (actually if you are good enough, many times you can deeply influence their decision).

One thing that scared me before the game was that I didn't know the players very well. So how should I tell things ? What is the type of game they like (action, romance, investigation) ? What types of movies, novels, music do they listen to ? What did they know about medieval time ? What subjects do they like and which one do they hate ? Can I talk about sensible stuff like child abuse or would they get piss off ? To know well yours players is a very important things for a game master ; the better you know them, the better will your game be.

B/Why would I ask to throw dices at some point where, from Sebastien's point of view, it was totally irrelevant to do so ?
What Sébastien is calling "bluffing", is very important to me for 2 reason :
1- Like he said, because it keep players in the dark about what is important in a large scale (the "pre-written storyline") and what is at a smaller scale (the story of the characters). Of course, killing the king of a rich and strong nation is obvious. But as a GM you have to show things the ways the character see them (according to your talent, of course). So one roll, many results, and some unknown to the players ; life is a big game and we never have all the cards in ours hands (even as a GM).
2- It also helps me having a more "free form" game, where even me (GM) don't know where the story will go. So what happens if they miss that roll ? The story may take a new turn. You may ask me : but this new part, what use (meaning) does it have in the story ? Easy to answer : creating story is always meaningful. Life might seems "meaningless", but since we talk about it, narrate it, thru a "storyline", it is, in fact, always "full of meanings". So I never, during play, really bother about it. Is it useful or not to the story (is it worth throwing a dice ?) is of no importance since it is always about the story we are creating ; so, yes, it ought to be important.

During preparation I would think about it, as to have an idea of the general direction, but sometime I have to say : the hell with preparation and let's go with the wind ! As long I feel things go right or go in a new direction we like, I make the call. To me success vs failure in a roll of dice doesn't mean "players vs gm version of the story". It only gives realism and helps create changes of direction in the story.
It's even more easy when you have a good background you can use. No fear of having to improvise "cheap stuff" or have to say to the players : " oups, I’m not prepare for this, we stop here for tonight ".

So I would call for many « not so important » rolls during the game ; 3 times more than Sebastien actually. It also keeps the players focusing on the game, gives a better rhythm, makes things look harder to succeed (no single roll and voilà the commander of the city is dead). It forces the players to create a story with a little bit more details, and helps them see the story with keys elements and sub keys element (tension points). And of course, no roll, when it would be too easy for the character and the situation doesn't ask for it.

So I follow this principle : rule is universal in is principle but is adapted in is application.



Chronicles of a rpg campaign project.

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