Time for a brief update/review of everything going on behind the scenes.
November I officially took off from creative work. The first week I didn't do anything creative, the other weeks I let myself play around with some ideas in short bursts, but stopped short of any focused effort. I was feeling burned out, both from the final push on Karma and the 2-year long development cycle on that game.
My current plan is to spend December-January working on non-Forged in the Dark games. I have two I am playing around with, and I hope to finish the smaller project by end of January. At that point, depending on my burn out level, I'll move back to some bigger design projects, including my Forged in the Dark works.
Project summaries below:
Karma in the Dark:
It was released about 5 weeks ago in its v4.1 form. The response and number of downloads amazed me, especially with little to no advertisement effort. In terms of the core rules, the game is pretty much done. I'm now exploring some publication options (along with getting an actual copy-editor for typos). It will probably be a few more months before I have any final decisions on that front.
In the meantime, I've started working on the first official supplement, a detailed pre-designed setting for the game. You can see the last update post for more details. I will probably have periodic updates on this project, but the release will probably be held until I've finalized my publication plan for the game. The only new update is that I've decided on one of the new optional mechanics for the supplement, which is replacing the archetype character creation with a lifepaths like system (somewhere between Stars Without Number and Burning Wheel in terms of complexity.) Part of living in a small town is having a reputation and a family legacy, so this seemed like a fun way to tie that dynamic into a rural setting, without messing with any core mechanics in the game.
I am also continuing to look at playtesting and collecting feedback for the core game. I have a few pages of notes on small tweaks or updates, but those probably won't be incorporated until I start work on the final version.
Tides of Gold:
I need to re-layout the game in InDesign since there's been no way to get around the Scribus problems that make the document frequently crash. I also need to make some initial updates/fixes based on initial feedback and playtesting. I have plans to add a trade mini-game to replace the default faction mechanics in Blades, but that will require dedicated design focus. Right now, work on Tides is slated for the end of January or early February. I need a break before I work on another Forged in the Dark game, but once I do, it's at the top of the priority list.
I have the basic concepts in place, but I need to make playbooks. I'm currently burned out on making abilities after designing 144 abilities for Karma. So this project is currently at the back of the queue. It will definitely come afters Tides of Gold's next update.
This is a narrative, exploration game I talked about on my blog a few years ago. It is a slice-of-life type of exploration, where you learn about the hidden secrets of small communities while also exploring your own character's memories/legacy. The game is not quite GMless (at this stage), but is designed to share narrative storytelling/world-building between all players. Once I start play-testing the game on a larger scale, I may explore making it a GMless game. I'm creating a new game system for it rather than hacking an existing one, since nothing quite fits. I spent most of November testing out quick prototypes of the core mechanics. I'm going to continue to work on it over the next few months, but until I nail down the core mechanics there won't be anything to show.
In November I also returned to an old idea of a cross between Dungeon World and Masks, but this time building mechanics from the ground up. You still play as heroes-in-training, trying to build up a heroic reputation while also struggling with your own identity. The game is designed for a West Marches style of play, where the group of players changes every single week. The GM/players quickly build the scenario based on a few quick choices (or rolls), character creation happens almost entirely within the action of the game, and there is a "rumors" mechanic which helps carry stories between play sessions even as the players change.
It is designed to be quick to understand, quick to play, and offer an overall light, high-fantasy feel. (The antithesis of Karma, you might say). Like Rootless, it requires some novel design mechanics, but it also requires some world-building tools like Karma did. The ability system is very different from Karma, so creating those abilities haven't been quite as draining. I hope to have a playable test version by the end of January, when I switch focus to Tides.
With all of the design projects in the works, especially with the novel mechanics ones, I've considered streaming some of the development on Twitch. I've held back because the idea of streaming myself doing math, making rolls, and theory-crafting game loops doesn't sound interesting. But then I rewatched Hack Attack episodes and it reminded me it can helpful to see someone design in real time. So I'm still thinking about it.
A side effect of taking a creative-break in November was that I started reading more and that led to wanting to write novels again. Long before I tried TTRPG design, I used to write anywhere from 1-4 novels a year. I stopped once I started doing trauma work in my job, because the job emotionally exhausted me. But now that's I've been doing that work for years it doesn't take the same toll. The only impact here is I might go back to writing blog posts on creative writing and storytelling again, but those will go on the personal blog. Just like my return to making digital art is ongoing, but really only shows up if you follow my new Instagram account.
Overall, I have a lot of projects in that pipeline, and that's when I do my best work. It's a relief to finally have a chance to turn to projects other than Karma for a while, though the setting supplements will give me a way to continue building on that system in a contained way. I am excited to explore rural cyberpunk followed by a dark ages spin on science fiction. Overall, 2019 is looking like a good, fun year.
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