Today I released the full version of Karma in the Dark, v4.1. You can go to the Karma section of the website or use these links to check it out:
Quick Rule Ref
What does that mean?
For the first time since I started working on the game, all of the content is done. I've had to-do lists sitting in a doc for two years now. As of now?
Neither of those are core components of the game itself. So...the game is done.
Does this mean it's completely finalized? Nah. Playtesting will continue to refine certain mechanics. Questions help me clarify and edit the rulebook. But for now, I'm in a state of collecting feedback and tweaking, not doing full-scale design.
On another level, this version has been put in a pdf with formal layout, art, linked table of contents, linked index, and overall I like the organization of the book. It's still not perfect, but it's miles ahead of the last pdf release. I've also been able to brush up on Indesign and graphic editing skills that were dormant for a decade, so I feel better about my ability to keep improving the document but faster.
I'll have more in depth post(s) about some design things that came up on my blog...probably in a few days.
As always: thank you. To everyone who tested the game, asked questions, shared about it, everyone I interacted with made it better. If I left your name off the credits it was an oversight, and feel free to email me.
I wrote a stream of consciousness post on my design blog. I can't wait to read it after sleep and my sanity returns.
Karma v4.0 has been completed and is ready for layout. Also, I'm pretty happy with it.
The next update here will probably be the release of the pdf. Then I might go quiet for a few weeks since we have a huge inspection coming up at work.
But when I return . . . I'm probably not going to talk about Karma. Because I really feel like working on kids game about being household pets. And then I want someone else to GM it, so I can just play a rambunctious snapping turtle. Or a guinea pig.
When I opened up access to the v.40 documents a few weeks ago I termed it a "rough release." I still need to finish certain systems (e.g. antiheroes), write up more details in certain sections, and make a few copy editing passes.
The first two weeks I felt like I was constantly adding to my "to do" list. This list included everything I needed to do before I would make an official release of v4.0 with a pdf, linked table of contents, and index.
Then somehow over the past 1.5 weeks, that list has steadily shrunk as I finished items.
I am down to three items:
For the first time in weeks, finishing up v4.0 feels doable. I'm looking forward to creating the final pdf with official formatting and links within the document.
This is also the first version where I feel generally satisfied with the state of the campaign. I am sure there will be rule tweaks, need for clarification, etc., but overall I am actually happy with the game.
What Happens After Version 4?
Once version 4.0 is officially out in its formal pdf, I will step back from changing Karma for several months. I need to see how systems play out across multiple settings and groups. There are enough mechanics at this point, it will take a while to gather meaningful data.
During that time I will probably look into how I want to release Karma in a formal final version. (Not that a game is ever truly finalized.) I know that will include getting a group to do some actual plays on camera, looking into final art options, and deciding on my publishing venue/approach.
If I make any Karma content during that time, it will be in the form of example worlds, campaign guides, more GM tools, etc. Stuff that supports the fiction and GMs but doesn't touch the mechanics.
I also have several other games I'm juggling. Tides of Gold deserves an update based on editing and initial feedback. I really, really want to get a condensed playtest version of Pet Bridgade out...mostly because I want to roleplay as animals for a while. I have a half-finished boardgame design I would like to return to at some point and a computer game that needs some graphics work before it can really be played.
I also have a backload of video games I want to play, so I'll take some much needed downtime.
Overall, I am excited to get the next version of Karma out, and excited to mess around with other projects and hobbies as I collect playtesting data.
As someone who has played and enjoyed a significant amount of Shadowrun, the set playbook style of Powered by the Apocalypse and Forged in the Dark games has always felt a little...confining.
In the original version of Karma, character creation was almost completely free-flowing. The game came with sample archetypes, but you could ignore them almost completely. This turned out to be a little too chaotic once people started mixing and maxing abilities however they wanted. It also create some paralysis/indecision during the character creation process.
In v2.0 when I switched to a more faithful adoption of core Forged in the Dark mechanics, I also moved back towards set playbooks.
The release of v3.0 was my attempt at a middle ground: set playbooks to start, but you could choose your second discipline from any three playbooks (i.e. all disciplines within your soul).
As I've been talking to a number of players and GMing more Forged in the Dark games (Karma and others) I found myself telling people repeatedly, "Nah, you can make your own Xp trigger...pick any starting action dots...basically, just pick a soul and playbook with the equipment and first discipline you want."
I've led players through creating their own xp triggers often enough (and shrugged off the need to have 3 action dots set by the playbook), that I figured it's time to make it official.
By the end of the week, I will be releasing a revision of v4.0 character creation.
In this new system you will pick your soul, pick your starting discipline, and gain the associated playbook equipment. Each playbook gives you a list of xp triggers to mix and match as you want (or roll randomly). It will also come with 6 build templates with suggested actions dots and special abilities, but you will have complete freedom to pick your actions dots.
This version feels the closest to a happy medium between complete control and structure.
Examples for the Shadow and Drifter are below.