This is just a brief peek at a current prototype.
As I mentioned in my update post, I've been reworking/rethinking my idea of mixing Dungeon World with the teenage-superhero vibe of Masks to make a game about being heroes-in-training. Think Fable 1, especially the short interlude where you were training in the Heroes' Guild fighting beetles and bandits.
I want to combine this concept with my burning desire to have a game designed for West Marches style play, by which I mean you can have a different group of players every week but still have a sense of progression individually and within the larger world narrative. In addition, I want a game with minimal GM prep...inching towards the realm of a GMless game. The idea is to make picking up and playing the game as easy as possible, with as little extra time investment as possible.
To that end, the game is structured on several levels.
1) The academic year. In between sessions, the PCs are engaging in the mundane business of studying and training; this is self-paced downtime that helps you level up skills. Play sessions represent the Big Event of an academic term. It can be the big exam, the holiday ball, kingdom's tourney, an invading monster, or more. It's the important moment, full of conflict, that we slow down and play out for that term. When your group is done playing, you can trigger the Graduation session, and determine the resolution for the PCs as they exit Dungeon High and enter a hero's adventuring career.
2) The rumor mill. Each session, your PC will generate 2 new rumors based on their actions. When your PC returns to another session, all of the other players will get to decide which rumor they have heard about you. When you live up to the rumor vs. when you go against the rumor will have different impacts on your bonds with players. This system doubles as a way to angle for extra dice and xp, while also creating a quick way to connect your PC to new PCs and give a sense of ongoing narrative.
3) The scenario generator. Rather than pre-plan an adventure, the GM will draw cards from several piles to generate the main event of the session. The GM can then choose or roll randomly to determine the detail for each aspect of the scenario. Finally, the GM will ask the players a few structured questions to provide the final layer of detail.
You can see below my quick prototype version of cards. As you can see, the GM will generate:
You can see an example draw below:
This example shows 1 scenario card from each category; there are six per category, offering a total of 36 different details in five different categories.
I decide to roll randomly for each card and roll 5d6: 2, 6, 1, 4, 5.
That gives me a scenario that takes place during a secret ritual. The threat takes the form of a curse that causes mutations. The Monarch will figure as a key NPC. The PCs will "win" the scenario when they fulfill a prophecy, but the situation will be complicated by the twist of mistaken identity.
This scenario generation provides a few hooks for the action. The GM would ask the players for a few more details, then describe the opening scene and launch into the action.
My design goal/development goal for this game is to make rapid prototypes, test out specific mechanics, then advance to the next system. You can see a few more prototype cards for the Event cards below, in various states of development. It's definitely been useful focusing on finite mechanics. And it's been a nice change for the complex system overhaul of Karma.
This blog is a mix of game design analysis, commentary on issues affecting indie dev spaces, and some personal reflections.