Thursday, August 18, 2016

Friday, June 17, 2016

June Update

Hello Everyone!

It has been a while, but we are still here and John & Anne are working hard in the game mines, but I will let the updated list speak to that.

As you can see, from the last update the Hunter, Creator, and Elemental augments are all set and locked in. For Game Systems: Divine Favor, the Magic Item Table, Odyssey Events, Prophecy Effects, Volatile Item Tables, and the XP System are also set. Much of this was Anne setting down and making a ton of tables.

But the good news is that we are down to five items left! We continue to circle... the finish line? OK, it's not a perfect analogy, but we are closer than we were before.

Anne wanted to apologize for the delay of Spoiler Request II: Revenge of the Archetypes. It is waiting in the wings, but stopping to talk is hard. Any work on a post, is time not spent working on the book. The scene ends up looking something like this...

... and then they get back to work.

That's it for the update. Have a great June!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Spoilers as Requested: Archetypes!

Since our last post about building characters and motivations on their Aspects and Archetypes resulted in a request for more information about Archetypes, I'm here to provide! Here's what's up with Archetypes: what they do in the game and what they're for.

Archetypes in HJ are based on (but not identical to) the Jungian heroic archetypes, which are a popular theory of mythological archetypes and personality types that describe characters in myths. Jung was the dude whose work Campbell, author of the theory of the Hero's Journey, based his own work on, and if you don't really care about reading a bunch of psychological mythology articles today, all you really need to know about it is that a lot of western study of mythology is based on Jung and Campbell and their ideas about universal themes and characters that can be found in different cultures and time periods around the world, and while they're certainly not the be-all and end-all of mythology ideas (and have plenty of detractors with good things to say about where their theories' failings are!), they're useful for big sweeping ideas and classifications.

So the Archetypes in HJ look like this:

The four categories at the edges (Self vs. Community and Freedom vs. Order) don't really mean anything in terms of gameplay, they're just to sort of show where the spectrum of character types is here. Some Archetypes are more about the Hero focusing on themself and their own goals (Self), while others are more about their services to others (Community); and some Archetypes are about the chaotic possibilities of having few restrictions (Freedom) while others are more about control and organization (Order).

Mechanically, your Archetypes do two things: they control your "leveling" process, and they control how much access you have to your Endowments.

Heroes have two Archetypes which combine to make a single total score, and they can't purchase dots of stats past that score. The idea behind this is that a Hero has to actually be working toward their heroic mission - the reasons they became and act as a Hero in the first place - in order to increase in power and skill. If they're living up to their own heroic motivations and giving it their all, they get to level a lot faster than someone else who doesn't. The total score from their Archetypes also controls how many Reserves they have to spend to activate their Endowments, meaning that someone who is seriously working to fulfill heir heroic calling is able to call in reinforcements with Sway or recover resources with Persistence or kick off a Gambit when needed more often than someone who isn't. Because you have two Archetypes in a combined score, you can control how much or little you focus on either of them, allowing you to have a more nuanced motivation set; while it's mathematically easier to try to keep them even and take facets of both into your character, you can theoretically favor one above the other and still succeed, or even let one drop completely to zero as long as you dive into the other one feet first.

So how do you get more dots of your Archetypes? Well, through roleplaying - performing actions and making choices that support your archetypal motivations. Saviors who save people, Preservers who preserve things, and Explorers who explore stuff are all likely to get a chance at gaining Archetypes; and conversely, Heroes who act against their archetypal motivations, essentially failing in their self-imposed mission, can actually lose dots of their Archetype and set themselves back a little ways (don't worry, you don't lose stats you already have if your Archetypes go down, you just might be slow being able to get any more new ones).

Archetypes have a lot of information about what each one means as a character type and when a Hero could be considered to be fulfilling them - for example, no one's particularly impressed when you go out and get easily accessible information you might already have known as a Scholar, and no one's going to applaud you as a Savior if you're saving someone from danger you just put them in yourself. It's too much for a single blog post to go through all of them, but we're happy to talk about individual Archetypes in the comments, if you like!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Aspects & Archetypes: What Makes You a Hero

We talk a lot about playing different "kinds" or "types" of Heroes, when we talk about HJ, usually because we want it to be possible to do all kinds of different heroic stuff without being pigeonholed. But although we say that you can be different kinds of Heroes, we haven't really gone in-depth about what that means, so today seems like a good time for that!

Obviously, Heroes are people, so there's all the nuance of every possibility for a person involved here, but they also have large commonalities in mythology, folklore, modern storytelling, and everyday life. HJ models heroic "types" with two major systems: the Aspects and the Archetypes. (And if you were confusing the two you weren't the first, so hopefully this post will help with that!)

Basically, Archetypes are about motivation and purpose, and Aspects are about skills and actions.

You've all heard plenty about Aspects already, since they're the main stats that Heroes use to do things. The point of Aspects is that they let a Hero do things that kind of Hero should be able to do - if a Hero wants to be a fighter, they take points in Warrior to illustrate that they're embodying that concept, and if they want to be a wise scholar who helps out their group with secret knowledge, they take points in Sage so that they'll be good at that. Nothing is stopping anyone from calling themselves a "warrior" without buying any dots, or even from sometimes doing warrior-style feats (like Striving for Glory to punch a guy, for example), but it would be exceptionally hard to have a character really be a Warrior if they are not actually good at anything the Warrior Aspect allows them to do. Heroes can have any number of the seven Aspects at various levels, although most will have two or three that really define their heroic role. (Also, obviously, there are Talents within Aspects that further specialize them, so even if you and your buddy are both Leaders, one of you may be all about the Diplomacy and Purpose and the other all about the Sovereignty and Tactics and see a pretty small amount of overlap.)

On the other hand, a Hero's Archetypes - of which they have two, the better to illustrate that Heroes are very rarely just one thing, although they do have the option of functionally abandoning one of them if they want to - are about why they're a Hero in the first place. The Archetype tells everyone why a Hero does what they do and what pushes them to go out and try to affect the world instead of staying home and never becoming the focus of a story, and the mechanic rewards them with progression when they fulfill this role they chose for themselves. Someone with the Ruler Archetype is a Hero because they want to impose their will on people and create new systems or order, and someone with the Artisan Archetype is a Hero because they want to create new things and feelings that have a lasting impact on society. They don't necessarily need to be good at those things, because unlike Aspects, Archetypes are about motivation - an Artisan might actually not be a very good artist or inventor, but as long as they keep trying and they work toward affecting the world in that way, they are still fulfilling that role.

For most characters, you end up with a pretty nuanced character description just from the Aspects plus the Archetypes: a character probably has three of one and two of the other that matter, which gives you a lot of information about who they are, what they do, and why they do it in a handful of stats. To use long-suffering playtest character Bernard as an example, he's a Sage/Creator/Hunter with Citizen/Savior Archetypes, and that's a pretty good portrait of what he actually is in action: a smart, somewhat vaguely goofy magician who heals his friends and talks to animals, and who is doing all these things because he thinks it's important to help people in need and keep his community safe and healthy. One of those things being different would change his character focus, which means that it's totally possible to have multiple Heroes who have the same skills (Aspects and Talents) but who do radically different things with them because they have those skills for different reasons (Archetypes).

So, for example: Odysseus and Horus are both broadly Tricksters, and probably have a lot of investment in the Trickster Aspect. If you specialized them further, you might say that Odysseus is a Trickster/Sage/Warrior, and that Horus is a Trickster/Warrior/Leader, so that now you have one Aspect's difference between the two but still some similar stats in play. But then if you add in Archetypes, you might say Odysseus is a Trickster/Sage/Warrior with the Citizen/Explorer Archetypes, and that Horus is a Trickster/Warrior/Leader with the Rebel/Ruler Archetypes, and now we have two very different characters: one guy who uses his Trickster & Warrior skills to do whatever it takes to explore new vistas but also take care of his followers and community at home, and one who uses them to fight against an unjust authority and seize power for himself instead.

The idea here is to give players lots of different ways to express the ideas behind the Hero they create and play, and to be able to tell stories that have resonating common themes without falling into the problems of "this group doesn't need two Lovers, we're just doing the same thing all the time" if they don't want to double down on having more than one person take on the same specialties. Good for the story, good for the game!

By the way, there is actually a third layer of this in play if you have a Mysticism-heavy Sage in your group: they have a Blessing that lets them determine the "role" a hero is destined to play in the current Saga and help push them into it, so that you might end up with even more specificity and complexity added to what you're doing at the moment. This Blessing lets Sages assign one of six common mythological hero classifications - for example, the "action Hero" (Beowulf) or "folk Hero" (Johnny Appleseed) or "sacrificial Hero" (King Arthur) - that gives the Hero who takes on that role additional benefits and responsibilities in a more short-term kind of way.

A fun game we sometimes play, when we're hours into working on something and need the break, is to grab a few famous Heroes from either mythology or pop culture and try to figure out their Aspect/Talent/Archetype/role setup, which ends up with some fun details where you can see characters becoming different from one another in spite of having similar overall themes. Our pick the other night was Neo from The Matrix, who after a little discussion we decided was probably a Creator/Sage/Trickster with the Magician/Rebel Archetypes, who depending on the movie was first the Action Hero, then the Culture Hero, and finally the Sacrificial Hero in each of his three stories.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Monthly(ish) Update 4.29

Hello Everyone!

So I will start with an apology, last month was a rough for John, Anne, and myself. Without dwelling on it both John and I had deaths in our respective family's, so our focus has not been on updates. Anne has picked up our slack and been sending out updates, but she is now in the final stretch of finishing her Masters. So I am back with the updates, and with a graphic (provided by Alex) showing the current progress.

Not a huge leap from last month, the only change is that Leader is now all set. The goal was to finish the XP system tweaks last night, but Anne's last paper got in the way, so that is close, but not quite there yet.

Also being actively worked on is the Hero's Journey Structure and the Hunter Augments. The Hero's Journey Structure is a GM resource for adapting Joseph Campbell's steps of the hero's journey to your games. The Hunter Augments are just being the Hunter Augments, which is to say they're being difficult. But the wrestling match with them continues.

But those are your quick updates for the end of April / beginning of May. I'll be back in another month to update you on the continued progress.

Have a great May!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Playtest Update: Character Sheet Peeks!

Holy smokes. I'm not sure how old this request is, because for some reason it didn't ping a notification to my email, but I just found it!

Could we see some updated character sheets? Maybe examples from the playtesters?

Sounds great, and sure! Since they just passed their one-year anniversary as testers, here are the sheets for our fabulous ongoing Mortal-level playtest, featuring some folks you may know from other blog posts. These are Mortals who have finished a complete Saga and played for a solid year, so they're pretty far into their development, and you'll see them looking a lot more filled out and specialized than the starting-level ones that we've been spoiling over at Kickstarter!

Alas, we don't have artwork for these characters, so their portraits are blank, and you may also notice that these are just the first pages, which is because the full sheets are elsewhere this week for storage. (Also, our graphics expert is on a job, so I put these together, so please pardon the smudges of my less professional skills.)

This set of characters is a really neat one, because you can see where this particular group decided to gravitate toward roles within the whole. While any Hero can have any set of Aspects, and there's definitely overlap between different characters who share skillsets, these are a good example of how we sometimes talk about a character as an Aspect type - for example, a Creator or a Sage, even though they clearly have other Aspects as well.

For example, these six characters clearly claimed one of the Aspects as their own and made it their home. Even though every single character clearly has some dots of Sage, it's also obvious that Bernard is THE Sage, and that while some characters have utility there and can contribute, he's the go-to guy for matters of the mysterious universe of the mind. It's equally obvious that Jennifer is the Warrior, Nate is the Trickster, Annie was the Lover, Emilia is the Hunter, and Ruby is the Leader. We didn't ask them to take on those roles or push them to develop into them; they did it on their own, responding to niches where they realized the group could use someone who was really good in a certain area, and spreading out to make sure the team had a balance of possibilities when together. That's not the only way to set up a group - you can definitely have multiple people being the Warrior or the Lover, trading in having someone who can handle any situation with the most appropriate stat for having everyone be able to absolutely demolish certain areas of expertise instead, or the ever-popular and hilarious "every problem looks like a nail" approach, where everyone goes hard into a couple of the same Aspects and become a roving band of hunter-wizards who solve all their problems with tracking skills and animal husbandry.

The only Aspect lacking a specific dedicated person in this group is the Creator (well, and the Lover now, since Annie met an unfortunate yet heroic end attempting to save her companions from being eaten by tigers), which the players consider Bernard's "job" because he has the most direct skills in it, but which is really not super focused on by anyone. That's okay - Creator powers and skills are awesome and the group could definitely use them, but they also get by fine with several people dabbling in it and pinch-hitting when necessary, and who knows, maybe someday someone will decide to invest. Or, maybe not, and then they'll either avoid creation-based stories or figure out creative (ha) solutions to those they encounter.

These folks may head on up to another tier soonish (although I say that knowing full well that their first Saga took a scientifically measured One Trillion Years, so who actually knows), but in the meantime, they're in a sweet spot where they're well-established and developed as Mortal Heroes, but not quite ready to go on to leave the fields of their human problems behind.

I'll leave you with this snapshot from Jennifer Clarke's character sheet, because she may not have a character portrait but her player does know exactly what she's about:

A true hero of our times.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Progress Update: The Votes Are In!

Okay, everyone! It's been a few weeks, so we're officially going to call the Kickstarter voting. (If you're not a KS backer, sorry, this post will be less exciting to you, but we will hopefully make up for it in the near future!

The final tally looked something like this:

A Votes B Votes C Votes
22 2 9

Those following along from afar may notice that there's an option C on that table, which didn't actually exist in the original KS post, where we offered options A and B. That's because a startling number of people over at Kickstarter (but very few here) suggested "option C", which was essentially "just keep doing what you're doing and let us know when it's done, we're not bothered about it", which was very excellent of them. (Salutes, you folks.) Not represented on this table are also a large number of votes of "C, but A I guess if that isn't an option," which started popping up around the same time as well.

So, without getting into it too greatly: you're all fantastic, but when we offered options A and B, it was because we were hearing from various backers and followers of the project that they really needed to see something concrete sooner rather than later, and since we agree that this project has gone on much longer than anticipated and you folks deserve to see some return on that investment, we came up with a few ideas for how to do that. Option C, nice though it would be for us because we wouldn't have to do anything extra, wouldn't help those folks whose voices we were responding to in the first place, so we're going to have to decide not to go with it.

But of the original two options, A clearly won by a landslide (even more so if you could the "C, but I guess A" votes, which jump that 22 up to a 35), so A it is! We will be working toward fulfilling that plan!

First Important Thing: Everything we're working on to implement Option A is stuff that had to be done before the book was finished, anyway. That means that those of you who voted C, or who aren't voting at all but were worried about delays, can mostly rest easy that we're not stopping to do things that make it take longer for you to get the final product. What we are doing is mostly redirecting the specific things we're working on so that the things Option A needs done get done first, and everything else will be done later after it's out the door. There will still be a small delay, I won't lie to you - at the end we'll have to stop to proofread everything and then put it into a form we can release to backers - but it won't be a very big one.

Second Important Things: As we have all discovered together on this winding journey, date estimates have been difficult to come up with and often don't reflect the actual final completion date. So, instead of taking a guess (educated, but still a guess) at when Option A will be finished and ready to rock, we've put together a checklist of all the things that need to get done before that, so you can follow along as they get completed.

There's a more thorough run-down of what each of those things on this list means and what we're doing with it on the Kickstarter update for backers, but suffice it to say they're all Good Stuff and they all have to be finished for the final game anyway, so hopefully even those of you not on KS will be able to follow some progress that way, too.

That's it for today's announcement! We'll let you know as things progress, and Cameron will of course continue to update while we move forward!