Sunday, July 16, 2017

Update Party

Here we are, two weeks later. While writing this, Anne kept making me redact things she felt were too personal.

Old man John at work

What's Up With Writing

What's up currently is: I'm working on things and Anne's helping me whenever possible. Since a lot of things have already been through a few drafts, it's lots of cleanup and confirming that numbers still add up and systems still balance against each other. I think we are all aware that when it comes to writing/editing and the English language, I'm not Anne, I'm the systems guy. Slower and generally worse, in other words. I usually do a lot of design and testing and numbers stuff, but she's the Head Writer, so this is slow and she is assisting to keep me from wrecking anything she already wrote. Mostly it's the double duty of making sure there are no holes in the system, but also that the copy actually explains the systems right so that readers understand what's going on.

This phase will hopefully not last very long, but it's important to make sure we know exactly where everything is as we return to the project so we don't duplicate any work or accidentally waste time to fix something we already fixed a different way.

Archival footage of Anne being better than John

What's Going On Outside of Writing

I'm currently working on setting up a new playtesting group (as of this moment, they're in character creation). It's important that this isn't something that will slow things down or anything. We won't be waiting for the playtesting game(s) to conclude before printing or anything like that, if the timelines don't line up. But it's just smart to have folks testing things while we're still working - the playtesters have time to look at it while it isn't yet finished, and new tweaks can get a field run. Live testing will also be a good way to get back into the swing of things.

Amicable playtesting discussion about group makeup

The Personal Stuff

Recent hospital visits were good but not as good as we hoped. We're both still pumped about doing things and we'll keep you posted. Thank you to everyone who commented with kind words, we both really appreciated all of them.

Right now we're planning to try to do an update every two weeks or so, even if it's just to say "hey, we're still here and still working on it", so there won't be a long silent stretch again. For the most part we'll probably do those updates on the blog so we don't spam Kickstarter peoples' emails, but we'll put them on the Kickstarter too if there's important information. Anne is also better at updates so I hope to give them back to her someday.

Salutes to you warriors, back to the trenches!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

After the Long Silence: What's Going On With HJ?

Pictured: Last Known Communication from HJ Dev Team

What Happened: The Long Silence

Way back when we started this project, our somewhat tongue-in-cheek Risks and Challenges section on the Kickstarter said, "While we are absolutely committed to Hero's Journey for many years to come, someone integral on the production team could still get hit by a bus tomorrow..." What we meant was that since we're a very small team, one person getting seriously taken out of play could cause major problems for finishing the game. And, as some of you may know or have guessed from the long silence, that bus did come along. Happily, it wasn't a literal bus, but it was a bus in the form of a sudden-onset severe medical condition - and it hit our head writer and coordinator, Anne.

We're not going to go into details, because it's a private medical issue and not only do we not want to talk about it, you probably don't want to hear about it. Suffice it to say that it incapacitated her for the better part of two years, and between hospital and doctor visits and the accompanying struggle with life maintenance, the pace of work on Hero's Journey slowed, then crawled, and then had to be put on pause completely. (For those of you not aware, HJ is mostly generated by a married-couple team - I (John) am the systems and design lead for the game and Anne's my wife.) We had already been slowed way down from our original plans by the initial stages of the health problems, which we didn't recognize for what they were at the time, and once Anne was down, the game stalled as a result. Things like playtesting feedback and rewrites dragged on because we weren't able to work directly on them as much as we wanted to, and updates for the community also fell by the wayside.

Artist's Rendering of Understandable Community Feelings

The Long-Overdue Apologies

We very deeply and seriously apologize for the long break, the long silence, and the long-running pace of this project.

Anne getting knocked over by the Crosstown Episode-of-House-MD Express is an explanation for what happened, but it's not an excuse. We didn't communicate with the community about why the project went dark or what was going on behind the scenes, and we should have; the piecemeal updates and occasional answers to individual PMs didn't cut it. There were reasons for that, and the first one was that Anne didn't want to tell anyone she was sick; it's very personal and for a long time she fought it and fought mentioning it to anyone except close friends. We kept hoping the problem would get cleared up quickly so we wouldn't have to talk about personal issues, and we kept putting off doing an update because we wanted to have something to show, like a PDF or a solid time estimate or even just new previews, before we made another update that just said "hang in there" - but those reasons still don't excuse failing to communicate with all of you for so long. We should have done better, period. Plenty of you folks have let us know you're frustrated and angry here or on the Kickstarter, and you have a right to be upset with us and to let us know it. We appreciate how passionate everyone has been about the project, and how many of you have kept up with looking in on it even during the long period of silence.

Example of a Totally Comprehensible HJ Work Chart

Where We Are Now

Hero's Journey is not, as understandaby worried about by some folks online, dead. In a second quote from our Kickstarter, "We'll see this game brought to life if we have to do it from cardboard boxes while leeching off of coffeeshop wifi." Anne is (sort of, mostly, if you listen to her) back upright and able to work again and the team is settled and stable. All our previous work - which represents the vast bulk of the completed game! - is still there and waiting for its final finishing stages.

We would like - so much! desperately, in fact! - to give you all a projected date to be finished, but given how this has all played out and how unsure we are of how quickly we can get back up to pace, we don't feel like we could do so and be honest. We're also frustrated and pissed off about how long this has taken and about the fact that it isn't finished yet, and we're keenly aware that we owe you all something awesome.

In the coming weeks, we have some important doctor's visits upcoming for Anne, and we're hopeful about the results. We'll be posting another update two weeks from today to let you know where we are with everything. In the meantime, we're STILL working our butts off to finish this damn game. (Which we still love and cherish and want people to enjoy, but when we're talking about how long production has taken, it's always "this damn game".)

Pictured: Productive Team Meeting to Discuss Small Detail of System

Thanks and Acknowledgments

During the long silence, we added some additional folks who have been helping a great deal behind the scenes but who you may not have heard about yet, so here's a shout-out to Tanay, our awesome Hinduism consultant who provides invaluable context and religious information and regularly saves us from missteps that plain research does not, and to Katie and Stewart, who joined the playtesting pool for about a year and provided their additional valuable insights into the sorrow of playing magician characters and the joy of murdering the bad guys, along with all the other playtesters who have been along with us for this long ride.

And, most importantly, as always: thank you all.

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!