First, I've been working on adapting the Scum & Villainy character sheet in Roll20 for my game. I looked at the work by Jakob Oesinghaus on the template for adapting the Blades sheet. Right now, that will take too much time to be worth it, since my sheet changes so much. The S&V sheet was actually easier to use. Once Karma is actually stable design wise, I will re-look at using that template.
This current sheet still only covers characters. I will probably add a tab for factions and progress clocks next. I want to get a team sheet, and I'm working on it, but that aspect deviates from S&V and Blades the most, so it will take some time. I would classify my character sheet creation skills as "very amateur", so I'm learning a lot as I go.
Second, I've been putting together a Roll20 group for people to playtest the game. This allows people to find interested players, gives access to a shared discord, links to a spreadsheet for advertising/finding a group, and if people want to use the custom sheet but do not have a pro Roll20 account, they can run a game out of this group and use my access to the pro features.
Third, I've continued to collect feedback from a variety of sources. We've already found several confusing points in the rules and as well as some problems and solutions with other game aspects, like the hacker class. I'm looking for an initial update to the rulebook in mid to late April to incorporate this feedback for the next version. The feedback and audio recordings have been amazingly helpful, and I look forward to continuing this process of play and refine.
As always, I remain extremely grateful to all of the people playing, asking about, and giving feedback for my game. This game will be so much better because of the help of all of y'all.
Brief update since it's been a week.
1) There are a number of typos and layout mistakes that need to be fixed. I am holding off right now because I start playtesting this weekend, and I know that will generate more edits. Will most likely release a cleaned up and tweaked rulebook in about 10 days.
2) I am spending most of my time working on the Roll20 character sheet. One of the main sheet designers for Blades in the Dark released a tutorial on how to adapt his sheet for other hacks. I have been working on editing the first document of about 4. It started at 20 pages, when I cut out the Blades specific material it was around 7 pages, and now I need to fill in the equivalent of everything I cut which will likely exceed 20 pages.
So the sheet will look awesome when done, but will likely take multiples weeks or months to finish.
3) Mr. Johnson, from the awesome Arcology Podcast, interviewed me about the system and will be releasing the podcast soon. I don't think I can bring myself to listen to my own voice (also it was my first time talking about my game) but I will link to it once it goes live. It was fun talking to someone who also loves Shadowrun. It also helped me get better insight into the experience of people who have never played a Forged in the Dark game when they look at Karma.
I am super excited for playtesting. Watching the group brainstorm ideas for their characters is a fresh reminder of why I love TTRPGs, and why I keep working on this game.
Today I released the third draft of the v3.1 rules. No rule changes, just editing for clarity and clearing up blatant mistakes. These changes represent the level of edits I expect over the next month or two. No major rule changes, but continuing to improve clarity for the rules, fix typos and mistakes, and increase examples.
Thanks to an influx of feedback and some time off from work, I went ahead and put together the first update: version 3.1 is now out. This updated the rulebook, character sheets, and special contracts.
New Mechanics: streamlined effect system; overview of the world; defined magic system; defined cyber system
Updates: changed action descriptions, especially engineer and hack; expanded world creation questions; fixed special abilities; improved core mechanics chapter; editing for clarity
The two biggest changes were to the mechanics. First, I streamlined the effect system, so it only requires one step to determine the effect of a roll. You now judge effect based on three possible sources of power: relevance, expertise, and press.
Second, I began to define the world. I tried to keep the narrative to a minimum so people can still create their own world, but the dystopia, magic, and cyberworld all have some themes with related mechanics.
All of the other updates mostly came from these two changes, needing to rework some actions, character abilities, and rule references.
I probably won't change much more without a few weeks of playtesting. I'll aim to update ~once a month, even if it's just fixing typos.
Up next: item list; copy-editing; rework chapter order/ rulebook layout
I said I'd take time off from working on the game. I didn't.
As found on the main webpage, I threw together a basic Roll20 character sheet. The programmer in me wants to hide because of its sloppy coding, but it's functional, so I'll worry about cleaning it up over the next few weeks.
I've already received an influx of feedback from several sources. I'm incredibly humbled by some of the people who read the book and immediately sent back some thoughts.
People ranging from Sean Nittner to my family to people I don't know on reddit provided critiques, comments, and feedback that have already pushed me into the next revision of the game. Critiques are my favorite part of game design, because new eyes and new problems get the creativity going again. I am really, really excited about where the game goes from here.
I am blogging through my ideas/changes on the design blog. Some of the changes will likely be pushed as early as next Monday. This will include the changes to effect factors. The as-written system (look at relevance, then look at effect factors) has always been clunky in my mind, and I want to go ahead and change over to re-writing all of the effect factors so they integrate in a streamlined fashion.
I am also moving away from being a copy of the Shadowrun world (e.g. Matrix cyberspace, metatypes). Whether or not those changes make the next update will depend on how far I get with them and how much I will need to change character special abilities to accommodate them. Laying out character sheets is super tedious to me, so if they need a ton of changes I'll need a few weeks to build up my tolerance for that work again.
Version 3.0 is in the wild. So what's next?
First, sleep and downtime. (My downtime vice is Netflix. I haven't watched TV in 2 months...so much binging to do.) I probably won't even look at the rulebook for a few days because I know there are typos that will jump out immediately now that it's been released. To anyone who actually reads these updates: I apologize for the typos. They will be squashed eventually.
Next, update my Roll20 character sheet. I have a basic one that was used for v2.0-2.2; it needs some updating for this release.
After that? I'll probably focus on running playtests for a while. I still need to finish the anti-hero playbooks and veteran professional skills, but I want to balance this chunk of mechanics first.
Somewhere in there, I will probably finish my short pirate hack, Corsairs on the Dark. It was always meant as a brief side project. I'd like to get it done and out there for people to enjoy. The simplicity of that hack is a nice mental break from Karma.
Karma in the Dark v3.0 will release tonight, likely around 10pm EST.
I thought I had it all ready to go this morning, then realized I used the wrong character file to lay out the character sheets. Since it was the outdated version, I need to re-layout the character sheets before releasing it all.
As far as v.30 is concerned, the game is finished. I still need to do some layout, but all of the rules and content have been completed.
This release will be missing two parts to the rules:
I thought I would be done with everything earlier in the week, but special contracts turned out to be a pain. Special contracts take the place of claims in Blades, and there are 13 contracts per faction circle, for a total of 91. Coming up with names, missions, and powers for 91 special contracts was probably the most tedious/creativity-draining aspect of this whole design. That also means they will likely get another look when I'm not on a deadline.
Overall, I feel satisfied with the state of this release. The game's content and primary mechanics are now pretty much set. I need play testing to adjust mechanics. balance some abilities, and clarify the rule descriptions, but overall, I feel like the game is ready for true beta testing to lead into the final form of the game.
Which after 17 months of development, is a pretty cool feeling.
Karma in the Dark v3.0 is basically done.
What am I leaving out?
I have this evening and all of tomorrow for my final push. If I make, I may be too burned out to post here for a few days. But....soon. The next version is coming very, very soon.
For this last push, I am adapting a lot of the material from the v1.2 rules that still apply. This is actually the first time I've gone back and looked at that rule book since about May of 2017. In my mind, that rule book was utter crap (yay critical editor brain), but I appreciate it a lot more now despite its flaws.
The biggest question will be how people receive the dramatic change from v1.2 to 3.0, especially since most haven't seen the incremental progress through v2.0-2.3. I put a lot more of my personal vision and ideas into v3.0, so I could see it being less appealing to Shadowrun fans. I experimented and took chances . . . and I look forward to running play tests soon to see which experiments work, and which need a revamp.
Brief update: finished the layout for all character sheets. I'll upload previews in a few days after I have some time to review them for typos.
The final layout required more time than I expected. Since players pick 2 special ability categories, I wanted to make sure there was balance between the different categories. When I reviewed them all for balance, I found a lot of abilities that needed to be tweaked, moved to other categories, or replaced.
I noticed that the magic and cyber categories all included special abilities that introduced new ways to play the game (e.g. illusion magic, possessing machines like a Shadowrun rigger, etc.) while the mortal souls did not. I spent a lot of time trying to develop a special ability that introduces new gameplay in every category. Similarly, I made sure almost every category includes only one ability that gives +1d or increases effect.
At this point I am pretty satisfied with the balance between abilities. The majority of them are unique to this game rather than imported from Blades in the Dark. It will take play testing to improve ability balance beyond this point.
Up next: layout of all team sheets.