Friday, April 24, 2015

Update 4.24

Disclaimer: This is being written about a project that is in progress and is an attempt to give you a glimpse in the process of making the game. Abilities, powers, and mechanics discussed in this blog my not work as described here in the final product.

This week John and Anne continued work on Aspect Blessings. At this point only Leader remains. The difficulty of Leader is a problem with player agency. In the "real world" leaders are inspiring figures, they have that jeu ne se quois that gives them the ability to inspire loyalty, to get people to think beyond themselves, to do things for "the greater good".

The problem is with making that intangible thing into a mechanic. Powers that make someone else do what you want them to do runs a high risk abuse. Leaders, lead, they are able to make orders and direct people. Powers that facilitate that are fine for NPCs, but what happens when they need to direct their teammates? Using a power to takes agency away from another player isn't particularly fun for them. How do you balance a power like that? It is a delicate balancing act, and taking some time to work through.

Once Leader is done it'll be a wrap for Aspect Blessings and Anne and John will be onto Domain Blessings. These will be the last group of blessings, and there are a ton of them. However, they're not anticipating too much trouble with most of them that is, except for Life, Death, and Fortune.

Next up for updates are the forums, you've probably have noticed they look a bit different. This should be temporary, and is a side effect of Stephen's awesome work of getting rid of literally thousands of bots.

Finally there are no questions this week, but as Anne is beginning to have some free time she thought it was time to get caught up on some blog posts. While she has a bunch of mythology questions waiting, she thought you might want more spoilery blog posts. So rather than having to rely on the weekly meetings is there anything you would like know more about? Systems, rules, creative challenges pretty much anything is on the table. Ask in the comments, there will also be a forum post. She'll use those as the basis for extra blog posts in the coming weeks.

So that it for this week, Have a great weekend!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Weekly Update 4.17

Disclaimer: This is being written about a project that is in progress and is an attempt to give you a glimpse in the process of making the game. Abilities, powers, and mechanics discussed in this blog my not work as described here in the final product.

My apologies on getting it this out late.

This week unfortunately there won't be any new Blessings to reveal and it's going to start off really really heavy, but there's definitely a light at the end. I'm going to jump right into it by talking about the elephant wandering around the room, deadlines.

This week there was some discussion on the forums regarding deadlines, and while the responses were positive, it brought some things to a head. We are not where we want to be with Hero's Journey, we wanted the core book to be done last year. We stopped giving giving deadlines, not because we're not working, but because we realized that we are incredibly bad at them. Instead, we tried to let you know what we were finishing.

All of the people working at Hero's Journey have "day jobs", and their work on Hero's Journey has required some degree of burning the candle at both ends. But Anne is another story, she just threw the candle into the furnace. I have alluded to it before, but I seriously think that she has a Time Turner. During production she has: worked a (more than) full time job, attended grad school, written a novella, blog posts, and worked with John to write the systems, rules, and additional content for Hero's Journey.

With this in mind, know that the fact that Hero's Journey is not finished weighs on both her and John immensely. They have not taken the trust the Kickstarter backers and the community lightly and each day past the initial deadline has made that weight heavier. At the same time, they want to make sure you get the best possible product.

In light of this that Anne has made an incredibly difficult decision. In order to fulfill their commitment, she put in her two weeks notice, she and will now be focusing on Hero's Journey.

What this means in the short term? It means that the next two weeks might continue to have slow progress. The blessings that are left require both her and John, and she will be wrapping up her job. I'll still be around to work on updates, but might have a little less to talk about for the next week or so. In the long term though, this will free up roughly sixty hours a week of developer time to focus on Hero's Journey, this can only accelerate the completion of the Hero's Journey Core Book.

So it's good news, it's a little bit scary, it means a lot that the community has been so supportive during this whole process. Thank you again, all of you, for your patience, we're excited for more news over the next few weeks. We keep moving towards the finish line.

So that it for this week, Have a great weekend!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Mechanics Talk: Playstyles and How to Design for Them

We've been wanting to do this post for a long time, and now, with Cameron spoiling powers left and right and the playtest group being an endless font of information and confusion, seems perfect.

While we get to make some design decisions that are just about the game in general - what kind of game is it? what kind of themes do we want it to have, and how do its mechanics reflect them? what kind of audience are we hoping to appeal to? where do we want to go in the future? - writing powers is a much more specific and crowd-focused event than is creating the bones of a system. Powers are the meat and milk of the player's experience in many ways; they're one of the first things players want to know about, and they do things that can't otherwise be done, making them essential tools as well as very neat ways to customize a character. We've never met a player who didn't want, need, and love powers.

But the reasons they love powers, and the kinds of powers they love, don't always match up. In fact, there are not only myriad different ways of using powers, but there are also several different kinds of players, all of them using powers toward different goals and with different ideas of what "good" powers look like and how they're "useful". We have to take into account all these kinds of players and their preferred playstyles, because they're all valid, but they all need different things, and that means powers have to run a wide range of potential and possibility.

Essentially, when we design powers, we're pretending to have a group of one of each of these types of players, and we have to make sure we have enough powers that are good for all of them, and enough that are tailored to each individual, so that the game is fun and full of customization for anyone who comes to it. We basically imagine them as distinct individuals, practically old friends by this point, and I'm going to introduce them to you!

There are five "archetypal players" that we design powers for - and that's players, not their characters. In no particular order:

Pat the Powergamer: "If I intentionally make myself incapable of four of the five basic game functions, and then spend all the extra points to get through the leveling process fast enough to get a specialization for a class well above my party's normal reach, and then buy four powers from four different disciplinary areas and use them all simultaneously, I can do 9873453875744 damage to an enemy in one hit!"

Most of us who have played tabletop (or any game, really) for more than a little while have met Pat in some form or another. Pat is out to get the greatest advantage out of the game that they possibly can; they want to be the absolute best at what they decide to do, no matter what they have to do, what rules they have to finagle, or how they can improbably and impractically stack powers to get there. The phrase "minmaxing", referring to allowing a character to be critically unskilled in so many things that they're almost non-functional in order to put all those points into being ludicrously good at only one thing, was coined specifically to describe something Pat does on the regular.

Pat often has a deeply-ingrained belief that games are for "winning", so even in an RPG, where there is no clear endpoint and the game is mostly about the journey, Pat is often trying to "win". To do this, they often turn to math, doing incomprehensible and improbable percentage calculations and curve projections that others would never dream of doing for fun, the better to figure out whether a power might give them .0000001% greater benefit than another one they could have gotten instead. They also often strive to be master loophopers; they look for any way that the game could technically be convinced to give them out-of-control powers or abilities, even if it obviously wasn't meant to, as long as they can't be said to be actually illegal. Pat views creating and leveling a character, and overcoming obstacles, as a neverending stream of challenges that they must prove they are the best at. Anything less is "intentionally being bad".

Pat is very frequently a combat-heavy character, since slaying your enemies is a very concrete way of proving that you are "winning the game", and because combat powers, since they deal with concrete and crunchable numbers in the form of damage and healing and attacks, are completely understandable and manipulatable. Pat isn't always the axe-wielding barbarian, though; they can also appear as a social mastermind who systematically makes themself impossible to resist, or a magic-user who goes to great lengths to become literally indestructible, and so on and so forth.

So, what do we write for Pat? As you might expect, Pat likes what we call "I Win Buttons"; powers that, once used, pretty much guarantee success, or at least overwhelming advantages. Pat also likes powers that can "stack" on top of each other, allowing multiple powers to boost them to great heights, and anything that they can relate to as giving specific, numeric bonuses to the things they want to do. On the other hand, Pat hates what they think of as "useless powers" - which is pretty much anything that doesn't have a math-bound mechanical effect, and includes powers that have purely role-playing or social consequences, or that affect the game as a whole but don't give them any specific benefit. As far as Pat is concerned, these powers are wasted page space, and people who buy them are at best stupid, and at worst deliberately sabotaging their fellow players by wasting their points on them instead of getting something useful.

Robin the Roleplayer: "Yes, I know some more survivability would be good for me, but I just don't feel like that's my character's focus right now. They'd be more likely to develop meditation powers, since they just spent a month studying with monks in the forest!"

Robin is often considered Pat's polar opposite, although this isn't necessarily so (and trust me, I have seen Pat and Robin coexist in a single player at the same time). Robin loves roleplaying, and is here for the rich, compelling story, the ability to create and drive a character within it, and the satisfaction of interacting with and learning about other characters and situations around them. Robin puts a lot of time and effort into who their character is and what they want, and is dedicated to being able to immerse themself in the story and experience it, vicariously living through and experiencing situations and emotions they wouldn't in real life.

Robin has good intentions, but has a tendency to get snotty sometimes; because they place such a high premium on the importance of the game's story and the inner narratives and motivations of its characters, they sometimes look down on players who aren't "taking things seriously enough", especially if those other players are in some way making it hard for them to really immerse themselves in their own character. Because of this, Robin often looks for powers that specifically let them control, or at least influence, not only NPCs but also their fellow players, the better to make sure everyone is respecting what they think of as the "spirit" of the game. They also want these powers because interacting with the world of the game and the creatures and people in it is what they're here to do, so powers that directly affect those things are their jackpot.

Robin tends to lean toward social characters, which give them the most ability to interact with NPCs and the best shot of convincing their fellow players to do the same, although of course they can and do play all kinds of characters when the mood strikes them. They also often appear as masterminds and specialists in informational fields, since wielding key information usually puts them at the center of events, and they have a habit of trying to find a way to insert themself into anything interesting happening in the game, even if it wouldn't normally be in their wheelhouse, because they don't want to "miss out".

Designing powers for Robin is sort of a journey; it always takes a long time and ends up somewhere we weren't expecting, kind of like Robin's playstyle itself. Robin loves powers that affect the story that the players are telling cooperatively, and wants to be able to spend their time (and points) changing minds, learning secrets, effecting change and seeing grand events unfold. Robin often doesn't really even care if they get any powers that actually help them personally; they're equally as happy with powers that help NPCs that they may never see again, or powers that create widespread change in an area or situation, because the fact that they did create that change and left their mark on events is what's important. Robin doesn't much like crunchy powers, however; they often come off as "boring", with no lasting effects and no purpose as far as the coolness of the story goes, and they can get downright sullen if forced to buy such powers on their way to glory - not even because they wasted their points, but because having that power is counter to their vision for their character.

Gabi the Gambler: "Yeah, this probably isn't the best idea I've ever had... but yolo."

Gabi is simultaneously beloved and completely hated by most groups they play with, because Gabi will make things happen, and sometimes that will be great and shockingly helpful and everyone will be incredibly impressed, and sometimes it results in everyone falling into a volcano and dying. They never know which. Gabi doesn't know, either. All Gabi knows is that something cool will happen, and that's a good enough reason to try anything once (or twice, or whenever the opportunity arises, really). Gabi loves to see big things happen, loves to take chances and rely on the whims of fate, and is pretty much okay with the result regardless of whether it covered them in riches or permanently burned their face off. Both were way cooler than doing nothing.

Since Gabi just wants to see neat things happen and have the fun of causing and/or helping them along, they sometimes have trouble getting along with other players, especially when they completely sabotage something the other players were working on. Gabi usually isn't malicious; they aren't trying to destroy other players' hard work or ambitions, but since the game is, to them, all about looking for awesome things and then enjoying seeing how they shake out, they can easily forget that their fellow players might have spent untold hours crunching the math to be immune to everything except the one enemy they gave innocent directions to, or months of hard diplomatic work setting up these peace talks that they just accidentally released a bunch of bears into. Even when they try, really hard, to be mindful of these things, sometimes they just can't help themselves, because there was the metaphorical equivalent of a giant red button that said DO NOT PUSH ME on it, and as far as they're concerned, no one in the universe could have passed that up.

Gabi can and does play pretty much any type of character, although they often lean toward trickster archetypes, which are traditionally all about unexpected consequences, unforeseen surprises, and hilarious outrage from everyone else. They also like to play characters with a lot of supernatural powers, which have more room for doing things out of the ordinary and possibly explosive when combined with other powers or characters, and characters that are in some way influential or in positions of power, since they have a greater chance to affect things that have more impact on the world.

It's actually pretty easy to design powers for Gabi, because what they want is simple: they want GIANT AWESOME COOL STUFF to happen, and they often don't really care how or why. Gabi's favorite powers are ones that depend more literally than usual on a roll of the dice: powers that could be either beneficial or catastrophic, depending on how they're used or what result they get, or powers that kick in when even they weren't expecting it. Gabi wants to be surprised, so even when they're using the power themself, they get a thrill if it isn't 100% predictable. But Gabi does not much care for powers that are extremely strict in their rulings and restrictions (especially if they get an idea about how could the power would have been without that silly "cannot be combined with other ridiculous powers" or "doesn't apply to creative interpretation" rules), and finds powers that do the same thing forever, especially if that thing is "add/subtract math", completely boring and ignorable.

Spencer the Strategist: "Look, if something's not worth having and using literally 100% of the time, it's probably not worth having at all."

Spencer is what we usually think of as a conservative player; they love the game and are as interested in action and adventure as the next person, but when it comes to what they personally do, they like to know their rules and limitations backward and forward. They often keep notes (the messiness level depends on the player) to make sure they never miss or forget anything, and plan their leveling and advancement paths ahead of time to make sure they're never caught unsure what to do or struggling to improvise. They like to pick a role and dig deeply into it, becoming competent enough to be all around capable but especially focused on their most important role, and to make sure that they can consistently and evenly be successful. Being spectacular is usually not as important to Spencer as being dependable; they want to know that they can always be useful, and that their skills will be appreciated.

Spencer is more often a generalist than many of the other player types; since the most important thing to them is being steady and capable no matter where they land, they tend to avoid leaving too many huge deficiencies in their skillsets, preferring to be well-rounded before they bend their energies toward their specific area of expertise. This often makes Spencer "level" or get really good at things more slowly than other characters, a trade-off that they're willing to make to ensure that they can alwasy contribute and keep going when the going gets tough. They find themself exasperated with the other players more often than some of the other types, though; since they work hard to make sure they're always useful, they can get annoyed when other players are "irresponsible" by their reckoning, which includes being intentionally bad at a skill needed at a critical moment, or refusing to invest in something even though they've been causing the group considerable trouble by remaining unskilled (Spencer generally considers Pat and Robin the worst offenders).

Any kind of character is open to Spencer, but whatever they choose, they tend to make their chosen role a be-all end-all one - Spencer doesn't just heal their party members, Spencer is a healer, and if Spencer decides to be a defender of the weak, you'd better believe that they reliably make sure that no one could mistake them for anything else. They often choose to complement or support other players in the group; after all, since their goal is reliable success for everyone, it can be a smart strategic move to combine forces with another player, rather than trying to go it alone. Spencer likes to be appreciated for being the heroic superstar they are, of course, but they also usually don't mind helping other people succeed, and taking part in that success rather than demanding the full spotlight.

Spencer chooses powers pragmatically and practically; they want things that always work the same way and have no chance of failing or surprising them, and that can be used to either bolster their chosen field of expertise or to make sure they aren't caught flat-footed if they have to do something they aren't normally great at on the fly. Any powers we design that involve random chance, that might only be useful in select niche situations, or that don't seem like they would be deployable in a wide range of emergencies are likely to strike Spencer as less than useful (or at least not worth the risk), so for them we have to work on providing workhorse powers - things that will always be good, solid, and never let them down. They're also big fans of "always-on" powers - things that are automatically and eternally in effect and don't have to be activated, because that's pretty much as dependable as you can get.

Izzy the Improviser: "What is this, high school? Stop trying to assign me homework when I'm just trying to have fun!"

Finally, we come to Izzy, who is a fly-by-night, relaxed, just-having-fun type of player. Izzy isn't necessarily against backstories and justifications and roleplaying, but they also don't feel the need to put a lot of effort into them; and similarly, while they have no problem with doing as much math as the game requires and making decisions about what to do with their character, they also aren't interested in making a big production out of it. Izzy likes to go with the flow, decide what to buy and how to specialize as they progress through the story rather than doing a lot of planning ahead of time, and allow their character to organically develop as they go along. They usually don't know where they're going, but that's perfectly all right with them - they'll cross each bridge as they come to it, and in the end have a character shaped by their adventures rather than the cold, out-of-character hand of pre-destined stat-purchasing.

Izzy's playstyle is often a fusion of various elements from the other players above; they love to be flexible and go with the flow, which means that sometimes they respond to things that have happened in the roleplaying and narrative of the game, sometimes they want to liven things up if they feel that too long has gone by without incident, and they have a healthy enjoyment of badass moves or moments of shining glory, either their own or others'. They can get irritated with other players when they make too many demands of what they "should" be doing, especially if Izzy doesn't agree or feels pulled in a different direction, and become easily bored if they feel like people are spending too long on any one thing or "forcing" a situation that doesn't really need to be happening right now.

Because Izzy likes to buy things in an improvised, reactionary sort of way - for example, maybe this game session they were called upon to pick some locks and had some trouble with it, so they pick up a dot or two of Legerdemain to illustrate what they learned and prevent the same problems from happening in the future - the kind of character they play can change drastically over its lifetime. They might start out a mercenary fighter, morph into a mage after events or stories skew magically, transform into a repentant healer of the sick after a mission goes badly and ends in tragedy, or turn into any other number of things as events warrant. They're usually not against specialization and focus, per se, but it's not so high a priority that they'll sacrifice their freedom to do whatever feels good at the moment. They don't like being told to plan too far ahead or make long-term decisions; for Izzy, that often makes the game start feeling like work instead of fun, and that's not what they came to the table for.

Luckily for us, we actually don't have to design many powers for Izzy; they want different things depending on what's going on and how they feel about the game and their character that day, so there's no fixed style of power that works best for them. Rather, Izzy needs a varied menu of different kinds of powers to be available to them at all times, so that they have the freedom to choose something that really calls to them and their character's current setup or situation. To that end, we focus on making sure that the powers we create for other player types are equally represented, balanced, and available at appropriate intervals so that Izzy never ends up stuck in a rut or feeling like they have nothing appropriate or interesting to try out.

So, as you can see, there is a lot going on when we're designing powers (which, sadly, is one of the reasons that it sometimes feels like the process drags on at a glacially slow pace). It's obviously not possible to create many (or possibly ANY) powers that all of our archetypal players above will like; some will be instant wins for some of them, while others will turn their noses up, and that's a normal part of game design life. We do of course sometimes design powers that we ourselves would love to use, but we're not immune to being part of those player archetypes ourselves, so we have to accept that just because we think something is awesome doesn't mean that everyone else in the world will agree. Some player types just don't get along when it comes to their most-wanted powers - Pat and Robin almost never agree with each other's favorites, and Gabi and Spencer may be even more diametrically opposed, while Izzy just wants everyone to calm down and stop harshing the overall fun.

However, we recognize that all these player types are perfectly normal, and that all these playstyles are perfectly valid. Robin is not "better" than Gabi, any more than Gabi is "better" than Izzy or anybody else - all kinds of people play games, and they all have different approaches, and that's completely okay! We want to encourage people of all kinds of game-playing background to enjoy HJ, not make it some kind of weird Spencer-Only Club or something, so it's our job to come up with powers that everyone can enjoy. Or, more accurately, to come up with powers for everyone to enjoy - not necessarily always the same powers, but a wide enough spread that no matter what area you decide to specialize in or how you prefer to play, there should always be something there for you.

So that's what our job is, in a nutshell: not just writing a lot of powers that are balanced and useful and interesting (which are the base criteria for having a useful game at all!), but writing powers that allow all players of all styles to participate. Luckily for us, almost all players are combination plates; most of us have aspects of more than one player archetype, so it's not quite a daunting mountain of powers specifically and only for each of them. Far more players have, say, elements of both Pat and Gabi in them than are purely one or the other, so they'll enjoy a wider range of power options by default, but we still want to make sure that if we have a player who is nothing but pure Robin, they've got a great selection of powers that will make the game a good time for them.

So, once you see the giant powerset that HJ has to offer, you'll probably see some powers that aren't appealing to you personally, maybe even some that cause you to pause and say, "Who on earth would ever want this piece of junk?" And the answer to that question is someone else - it wasn't written for you specifically, because as much as we want to lavish love on each and every one of you, it isn't possible for every power to be perfect for every player. But for every power you see that seems like a road you don't want to take, there should be at least one, and probably more, that are useful or fun or exciting or interesting. That's our goal: not to make all powers for everyone, but to have powers for everyone in the toolkit so that each of you can create customized powersets that make you excited to play your Hero.

I know this got long, y'all, so thanks for sticking through until the end. We're back off to write powers in their many dimensions and possibilities, and we hope we'll have something good for Cameron to spoil on Friday!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Weekly Update 4.10

Disclaimer: This is being written about a project that is in progress and is an attempt to give you a glimpse in the process of making the game. Abilities, powers, and mechanics discussed in this blog my not work as described here in the final product.

This week we're going to talk about foreknowledge, kicking off with a question that came in from the forums. Special thanks to Asmael, who predicted what John and Anne were working on this week.

How does Hero's Journey deal with prophecies?

Honestly, you couldn't have timed this question better and though I thought it had been covered before, I was mistaken. When I asked about it in the weekly meeting, I got a series of exasperated sighs. They are currently working on the last few prophecy based blessings.

The inherent problem with prophecy is that sadly, no one we know is able to predict the future. Prophecy is a great storytelling tool when you know how the story ends. If you have played a roleplaying game, you know that they are hard to predict. Things can go off the rails quickly, one die roll, or one "odd" decision from a teammate can drastically alter the course of events. It makes it hard to create a prophecy, without taking away player agency.

So what I am saying is that this is still in flux, but there will be two key ways players will be able to interact with prophecy.

One way (which is being finalized now) is via Blessings the Sage Aspect. It will let players work with the GM to nudge the story in particular directions, planting the seeds of things that are to come. Again, this is still being worked out, there may be the ability for you the player to let your character say "Yeah I knew that was coming." and gain bonuses.

Another way to interact with prophecy is via Divine Favors. Let's keep it simple and say your character is prophesied to be killed by an axe (This was part of the question). At the start of game, you give your character a Prophecy of Doom (This has been very popular during playtesting). You know that your character is going to die, and an axe will be your undoing. Depending on how sadistic your GM is, you can expect to be running into axes in odd places. When your character eventually dies an axe will most definitely be involved; if your character died in a bar fight, with your last breath you will find out that the guy who finished you off was nicknames Axe, or if you die in a car accident one of the cars happened to have a fire axe in the trunk, or maybe the apartment fire that claimed your life was started by some teenagers trying to make flamethrowers using a certain men's body spray.

Doom is just one of the Divine favor prophecies, there are others that don't necessitate your death.

Moving onto this week's Blessing Preview. *Name Redacted* comes from the Knowledge Tree, If you followed the early play tests you may have seen an earlier version of it. It allowed players to use their knowledge to find weaknesses in their enemies; you might have noticed it during the basilisk fight to call out a weak spot giving other players the chance to deal more damage.

In its initial implementation thought it lead to some... interesting complications. Specifically this roll had to be used each time. For example, the party were to fight a basilisk again, but this time you roll tragically, did your character suddenly forget about basilisks? What about all the other characters, did they forget? Why are they unable to independently remember?

To solve this, Anne and John subtly changed the way the power works, it has the ability to change the way in which you fight enemies. Now when you use this blessing, using basilisks as an example, you make your roll and fail, you can't identify anything unique about this basilisk.

But let's say you succeed, and draw on your knowledge of basilisks and make a roll with the GM. The GM rolls against a table and you find out, by its marking that this is clearly a Hungarian Basilisk. Hungarian Basilisks are significantly more dangerous because they breathe fire, but their flame sacs are volatile making attacks against them do more damage.

From this point forward in the game you and your party know about Hungarian Basilisk's, their ability breathe fire, and their flame sacs being a weak spot. Not every basilisk will necessarily be a Hungarian Basilisk though. Identifying enemies will generally come with a trade off, making an enemy more dangerous, but also weaker in some way. You could roll well and find out that the enemy has all the identifying tells of being cursed by Athena, giving your team a huge advantage.

So that it for this week. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Playtest Diaries

Hey everyone. Im back again with another update from our playtests. I did definitely want to do these blogs more often, I'll be better about that(sorry).

Game has been going great so far. We havnt missed a week but we have been without Amy for 2 of the past 3 games. We had the normal problem with missing a player(math on encounters doenst add up right, things planned for that character dont get to happen or get moved), but it was a good thing to look at, "balance-wise, how does missing a player affect the game."

Most games have some sort of specialization. Bill is good at X tasks and Jane is good at Y tasks. If Bill is missing but we have an encounter the requires someone skilled in X, we have a problem. Usually this is handled one of two ways from a GM standpoint. Either the group is guided away from the task meant for Bill or it becomes a time of stress and growth, where someone else must step up to fill Bill's shoes. I think use both strategies in different degrees is the best way to go. However, in many games there is a character who seems almost necessary(oftentimes the healer) and things get very complicated if they arent around. With Hero's Journey focus on the party and everyone having powers that help the group, this might get more difficult. Amy's character was a hunter and the group suffered through longer travel episodes from her absence. But what if Anne had to miss game? How bad would it be without a focused lover for the party?

I think it is mostly solved because everyone should have a little of things. So everyone would save their inspiration if the lover was gone so they could make it through, but its something Im going to be keeping an eye on.

I want to give a little background on the characters and story so far before I go further so I can refer back to it.

Bernard Fitzroy X - Chosen of Thoth: In the UNC Chapel Hill Doctorate program for archaeology. His ancestors graffitied the pyramids long during the Suez Canal building period. His family sees it as a mark of pride, but Bernard is embarrassed by it and seeks to study archaeology as a form of penance/sorrow. The Ibis that informed him of his sacred duty also hinted at a prophecy in which Bernard dies in a horrible explosion. He is mostly a sage type character who uses Creator to heal and fix things. He has some hunter for naturalism and other animal/outdoorsy stuff.

Athanasios Prokopis (Nate) - Son of Hermes: Nate is a young New Jersey dude who does "deliveries" for organized crime and other unsavory folks. His introduction to his biological father was very recent and involved Hermes framing him for terrorism, you know, as a test. He keeps trying to just get back home and back to his life, but he keeps getting entangled in legal troubles. He is a Rebel/Explorer

Emelia Vinter - Chosen of Skadi: Emelia moved to Greensboro, NC not too long ago from Colorado. Shes an outdoors type and she works at the local Zipline/lazertag/halloweencornfield farm. Shes not very well off and struggles to make her weekly rent. When Skadi visited her, she told her it was her destiny to stop the great winter. She hasnt quite figured out what that means yet, and being a hero seems to only get in the way(although shes been eating better recently). She is an Explorer/Citizen

Ananda Harper (Annie) - Chosen of Sarasvati: Annie is currently an artist in residence(fake professor) at the local college. She has traveled all over the world with her Jazz trio and has been awarded the presidential medal of the arts for a song she wrote to raise money for victims of hurricane Katrina. She has spent most of her adult life traveling and performing while residing in New Orleans and Nyc, but she took this job in a small city to settle down with her wife. She is a Artisan/Jester

Jennifer - Chosen of Athena: Jennifer has come to be known as "action lawyer." She is the only true combat person in the group and shes also a smart lawyer. She does a lot of running and jumping and saving people all while in a power suit with heels. She lives in the shadow of her deceased mother, a very influential lawyer(I think in california). Upon her visitation Athena set up Jennifer's mother as a spirit guide for her. Speaking to her in moving pictures in an old law text.

Some of the stuff is missing(like Jennifer's last name and some archetypes) cause I just realized that Stewart and Katie take their characters home each week. Its not a problem at all, but something I only just noticed(Im used to having every character sheet in our giant character sheet rolodex).

I'll try to blitz through the story up to this point.

Nate is making a delivery when hermes shows up, frames him for terrorism as a joke and then says he needs to make a delivery for him. Bernard is traveling on the same highway to class and is stopped by an Ibis who takes him to Nate who is coincidentally going to the same place. Jennifer is close on a case and needs to interview a key witness who is at a downtown bar. Emelia and Annie end up there too, I dont remember why.
They get some food but Jennifer smells that the food is rotten. They order new food. The guys arrive, bernard senses the new food is also rotten and slaps a burger out of emelia's hand. This starts a "everyone hates bernard the crazy person" trope. Stewart is not a fan of this trope.

Some shit goes down at the bar, they find out that the witness is working at the place poisoning the food. They go to debrief at Annie's house cause its closest and there is a freak blizzard. On the way, Bernard sees a snow elf and makes everyone investigate it. Jennifer can see the elf but doesnt make a big deal of it. Everyone else thinks the elf is a normal college kid who doesnt wanna be bothered by Bernard. "Cue Trope"

But the elf mentions its work here is done and theres a new blizzard it has to start in West Virginia. As it leaves it opens a portal in the sky. Action lawyer leaps into the sky to follow it. Everyone else stares dumbfounded, including me. Bernard is able to scry on her to see where she is and they all plan a roadtrip to go get Jennifer. The story had nothing actually to do with this elf or west virginia, I was just trying to get him out of here so they could refocus on the main plot. But that failed horribly, cause action lawyer.

This is my first new note. Travel Episodes and a split group: Although for the arc of the story it makes sense for them to go on a heroic journey full of adventures to find her, thats a large portion of the game Katie isnt involved in. So I came up with stuff for her to do with her new elf pal, but it was difficult jumping back and forth between travel episode crew and normal adventure episodes with Jennifer. I think it turned out fine, but I want to probably add a sidebar about it in the travel ep section because I dont think it necessarily something that is intuitive.

This brings me to another of my notes. Our playtest games are much shorter than our normal games, but I think more in line with how long an average player would play. This has been an astounding challenge for me. The economies of the game(labors, etc) are based upon a session that would be longer, but obviously people will have differing lengths of game. I was especially realizing that god characters in a 3.5 hour game would have an almost unbalanced amount of chapter labors available to them per hour of play. It wont make it into the main book, but a future supplement will probably include some help for GMs on how to raise or lower the amount of chapter labors based on the length of the session.

In that same vein, it has been a real challenge to stay on task. With only 3.5 hours we have to get stuff DONE! But our group is very used to slowly getting into the game while discussing the events of the week, gossip, news etc. It would definitely be a challenge for me to always game like this. Just as with chapter episodes above, in shorter games its tough to change episodes as much as you probably should. So when we talk about session length we'll probably talk about that as well.

At a gas station they're attacked by some frost giants. Bernard suggests starting a gasoline to deal with them because they lack action lawyer. It is super effective. "cue trope".
They eventually meet up with Jennifer while she is fighting off some createurs. They're doing poorly in the battle and Nate uses the trickster Gambit to get them out of there. He rolls very well. When he was a kid he used to go camping in the woods near here. He planted a seed there one summer and now he sees it has grown into a gorgeous tree of pulsing life energy. (these are plague creatures so the beacon of life energy is more tempting to them than the heros). Nate saves the day, everyone is bleeding and dieing.

I love gambits. Since Anne came up with them after we both struggled on what the trickster could be doing as a story vehicle, they have been my favorite mechanic in the game. Its incredibly difficult for a player to prepare the amazing plans a trickster should be pulling off. But gambits do the work for them. Their character still put in all the time, but the player doesnt have to be a mastermind anymore to play a trickster type character. You spend a reserve, roll on the table, and the trickster and the ST figure out how he could have done things in the past to make the outcome work. It still requires imagination on both their parts, but its smooth and elegant and awesome. Ok, done tooting own horn, but really annes horn.

While he is lying in a pool of his own blood, Bernard sees the truth in the world around him. He learns that things are getting worse in Greensboro and that this elf thing was a fools errand. The rest of the group wont be happy to hear about this....and they probably wont even believe him. "cue trope"

The sages job is hard. I definitely get that. You know things others dont know and see/hear things others dont hear. It can definitely be really frustrating for the player when others dont believe him/her or dont take his/her ideas seriously. Stewart has been having a rough time with it, but doing it like a champ. Some sage powers werent helping the sage with their role in the story insomuch as if people dont believe you at all, you cant sage much. One of the powers we've been working hard to retool is one of these and Cameron will be giving a sneak peak of it tomorrow. So I wont spoil it here. And Bernard and Jennifer will be playtesting with it tonight if you wanna see if they mention any of it on the twitter.

I had some more to say....but Ive run out of time... I'll split this into two parts and get the next one out early next week. I know this one wasnt as discussion filled as the last one, but I think itll be easier to talk about the characters now that you know them a little.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Weekly Update 4.3

Disclaimer: This is being written about a project that is in progress and is an attempt to give you a glimpse in the process of making the game. Abilities, powers, and mechanics discussed in this blog my not work as described here in the final product.

This week was pretty quiet on the blessing's front at Hero's Journey. John, for the first time, had to navigate the labyrinthine corridors of filing taxes as a small business. The majority of his efforts this week were focused on getting that done (which they are). Anne, in the meantime worked on formatting blessings to make the remaining work easier.

Some work was done on blessings, and as no one has asked me to stop, I've got another blessing preview to share with you. This one again comes from the Creator Aspect, from Vision Talent. Part of Vision is about capturing the ephemeral part of creation, that spark of an idea before it is made real, but it also deals with art that exists in the moment such as a song, play, or telling a story.

With this week's blessing Anne and John wanted to capture that sense of a well told story being a source of inspiration. It's also a blessing that uses Lulls.

A lull, as a reminder, is a specific type of episode where the hero's take a break. On a long dangerous road trip, a Lull could happen at a diner they stop, relax, decompress, maybe have a damn fine cup of coffee. Players will have some ability to choose when they have a lull, and they can be taken once per Chapter. They can't stop the action, they give players a chance to regroup.

A Creator with *blessing name redacted*, is able to use a Lull to tell a story, or maybe sing a song. It is told with such skill, that energy flows out of the creator; those witnessing feel almost like the events described are happening to them as they are told. This telling serves as a source of inspiration for the heroes.

Now, if you have been following preview posts, that might throw up a flag for you. Inspiration is usually the domain of the Lover Aspect. This blessing is an example of overlap between Lover and Creator. John and Anne debated about this overlap, but in the end felt that it served to best capture the symbolic and thematic value of being inspired by a great story.

So there was one clarifying question from last week that needed attention.

How are flaws defined, when a player creates an item using pure artistry?

My bad on clarity there. It will be determined by a GM roll.

That's it for this week! Let me know what you think of the format change, and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


As you all know, we've been working night and day to complete Hero's Journey, pouring our hearts and souls into it. But, over time, we've slowly come to realize that something about it just felt wrong. It wasn't the game we'd envisioned; it wasn't the game all of you deserved. How could we keep working on something when our hearts weren't in it?

After a long period of soul-searching and thought-provoking discussions, however, I'm happy to say that we resolved our concerns. We realized the game's true calling - our true calling, as it were. And so we took it in a new direction, and I feel safe in saying we will absolutely never look back.

Without further ado, may I present the new, improved, retooled, and clearly 10000% times better inaugural game from the team here: My Little Hero: Friendship is Mythic!

Coming soon from every even vaguely reputable game publisher on the planet. You're hardly able to wait, I know!