Wednesday, December 30, 2015

End of the Year Wrap-Up: Hero's Journey in 2016

Hey, everyone! We hope that everybody who celebrates winter holidays is having some wonderful ones, and that everyone who doesn't is having a great time with whatever they're doing regardless. The year's about to wind down, so we're here for a quick run-down on what's up with HJ, what's doing great, what hasn't done as hot as we were hoping, and where we're headed. (Cameron is on vacation, so don't blame him for not knowing this stuff in his last few posts.)

The Good:

Blessings are done, y'all! I don't think I can express exactly how exciting that is from our perspective because oh MAN they were a lot of work, but baby, they are done! At final count, Hero's Journey will have exactly six hundred and eighty Blessings when it ships, which includes 420 Blessings from Aspects (the ones from the Web of Fate that have to do with your skills as a Hero), 180 Blessings from Domains (the ones that have to do with areas of magical/elemental/spiritual powers that normal people don't have access to), and 80 Blessings from the Devotionals (the ones that are unique to the pantheon you, as a Hero, serve). We have tiny little Blessings for Heroes who are just starting out and are just that little bit more impressive than normal humans who haven't been touched by the divine, and we have enormous world-shaking fundament-altering Blessings for Heroes who have become deities themselves. And everything in between.

Basically we are really excited about being done with these. I would say that you don't know, except I'm pretty sure that after listening to us talk about them and complain about them and say we're alllllmost there for months, you're probably pretty excited to hear it, too.

Augments, on the other hand, are not done yet, since they depended on the Blessings before they could really achieve velocity, but they're in the process of being worked on right now. There are no Augments for Devotionals (and I mean, really, they don't need them, they're ridiculous all on their own), but there are for both Aspect and Domain Blessings, and they range from "slightly extend time that Blessing's effects last" to "make Blessing do whole additional dimension of ridiculousness", and a lot in between. They're (hopefully) moving faster than Blessings, since they're adding to existing material instead of reinventing the wheel all the time, and we'll keep you updated on them.

Playtesting has been super useful lately, with some more concrete feedback on things that weren't working for players or didn't pan out as intended in play in spite of how good they looked on paper. Having long-running games that had time to figure out their skills and get entrenched in and develop characters has definitely paid off with info about issues we might not have encountered in shorter-run stories, and we've done some good tweaking lately (some of which you'll hear about in the next section!).

The Bad:

Subsystems having to do with the Aspects, as we suspected and talked about a few months ago, have been revealed over more testing to not all be stacking up equally. That sucks, because it would have been nice for them to be done, but has resulted in us rewriting them to make them better, which I think we can all agree is a good thing that will make the overall game more enjoyable. For those who were following along with this post a while ago about Aspect subsystems, the Empowerment, Overextension, and Persistence systems were performing poorly in comparison to the other subsystems in play, consistently enough to need retooling.

There's a silver lining on that one, at least - we have updated versions of the subsystems for Creator and Warrior Heroes ready to go, and we'll get to share them with y'all in some blog posts soon as we try to get Hunter to cooperate and finish out the lineup. So stay tuned on that one.

Art delays, something that we haven't actually had much of a problem with over the course of this project, have cropped up in the past few months, mostly revolving around the additional art of Kickstarter-pledged NPCs we're waiting on. This isn't really a problem as far as publication goes - obviously, it's not like we're waiting on art and nothing else right now, so no one get on the art department about DELAYING THE BOOK because it is totally not on them - but it has resulted in fewer NPC spoilers than we were planning on, so apologies to those waiting for them. We've just seen one more character come back recently and are waiting on the last few to make their way back to us. Barring some kind of Canadian zombie apocalypse tragedy, those should all be completed with plenty of time to spare as far as actual printing of books goes.

The Ugly:

Obviously, the big sadness is that we aren't shipping you books right now. Those of you following the blog have heard a lot of the reasons why, so I won't rehash them; but we are still not there yet, which is disappointing to everyone here, and we know to all of you, too. Obviously, with the issues of first-time game devs being bad at estimating time investment needed, occasional playtesting hiccups, and sometimes members of the team falling deathly ill, providing you with new deadlines hasn't been working, so instead, we're going to focus on what we're doing, and how close that gets us to being finished and on our way. So, let's look at:

What's Coming Next:

Here's what our to-do list looks like for the beginning of the year. (Well, not actually, our actual to-do list is on like three whiteboards and is covered in scribbles and side notes and is basically incomprehensible to anyone except for us, so this is the clean version, readable by human beings.)

  • Finish the Augments. These are the last large piece of the actual game left outstanding, and they've already been started, so we just need to confront and kick their asses as efficiently as possible. This will involve checking them against each other and the whole big sprawl of the Blessings landscape, so it is intensive, but we're hopeful that it won't be nearly as slow as the Blessings process was.
  • The Hunter Subsystem. Hunters. Every time. This is the last of the Aspect subsystems to need an overhaul, and will hopefully get straightened out organically as we work on the Hunter Augments here and are immersed in Hunteryness for a while... but if it doesn't, it'll be next up. Ideally this won't take too long, other than testing it in live games to make sure the darn thing works this time.
  • Outstanding Appendix Tables. Like most RPG books, HJ's has an appendix that has maps and tables and other good stuff in it, and a couple of those tables are still in the sketched-but-not-fleshed stage. Off the top of my head, I know we still need to finalize some sample Divine Favor, work on the ever-popular Volatile Item table, and some other things of that nature. Again, hopefully not a very time-intensive step, but one that needs to be done to make sure all player tools are in place. This is the last thing that actually involves any writing - after this, written content is done!
  • Finalize NPCs and their Art. As noted above, we're still waiting on some art to come back for these folks, although you can see that they're not pressing right now. Finalizing them will mostly have to do with cross-checking them with the finished Blessings and Aspects to make sure their character sheets are correct, and making sure no one is an unbalanced Unplayable Character Mess after all's said and done.
  • Jess, John, and Anne Proofing Party. After all that, John and I will have to sit down and read the entire book, now in its final order, from cover to cover a few times and make sure everything makes sense, there aren't any weird quirks or legacy rules left from earlier versions in there, and that nothing jumps out as in the wrong place or section or as being worded poorly. This will probably happen over a week or so while in pajamas and yelling passionately at each other about minute details no one cares about. Somewhere, probably being about fifty times more professional, our lead editor, Jess, will also be doing this, and hopefully telling us that we did great and there don't need to be too many more changes.
  • The Final Layout. At that point, the book's done and the art department is in charge of final arting and laying-out of pages. They've done a lot of prep work for this and we have full confidence in their ability to be amazing at it, so holy bananas, that will definitely be an exciting day. Because after that day... things get to be printed!

And that's the end, y'all. That's what we're doing and where we're headed. Today, Augments: tomorrow (or at some point) the world.

Future Updates:

Despite Cameron's diligent attempts to drag us out of our poorly-lit writing dungeon for meetings once in a while, news has been slow to come out to you folks, so we're looking to get that moving again. Cameron's updates will continue to talk about where we are in the process and what we're working on at the moment, while I'll be doing some more focused updates on specific issues and spoilers that will hopefully be fun for all of you. In no particular order, I have posts queued and outlined for talking about the new subsystems, spoiling some finished blessings, discussing a few mechanics you haven't heard much about yet (Travel Episodes, y'all!), co-op play issues in HJ, and of course more NPCs.

We'll talk more about the future of HJ (hopefully, a bright one) as we get closer to the end of the tunnel, but that's all for now!


  1. I can honestly say that THIS is the post I've been waiting for for a while now - concrete information; details on the sort of work that has to be done to make the game ready for us, the players; and a glimpse into the scope of the work [over 600 blessings!?!?!? - Holy Crap!]. Though I know you have been working through the troubles life throws at you, sometimes it has seemed that nothing was going anywhere, and my frustration has been pretty high, but more of this kind of update is the next best thing to actually having the book. I'm especially glad I paid for it before the Canadian Dollar took a nose-dive... :-) Here's to a productive and trouble-free 2016!

    1. Awesome, glad to provide it, then! I second that hope for a productive and non-headachey new year.

      (Yeah, 680 blessings sounds so good when you're talking about player options... less good in the doldrums of Week 34574258 of Blessings Editing. We are so excited that they're finally ready to go!)

  2. I think Purple put my feelings quite eloquently...a big concrete post of info that is such an amazing way to start the year :) I'm not going to rehash everything he said but I will say that this post gave me exactly the kind of info that has me jumping in joy at the thought of the book, a feeling I been missing for a long time :)

    I look forward to the future posts...though I do have one request...the poor Egyptians still haven't had their Devotional spoiled probably doesn't merit a post on it's own, but a post script on another post would be nice.

    Also, Happy New Year to everyone on the team and the forums and the blog! :)

    1. Thanks for the reminder, I'll see if we can't squeeze the Egyptians in somewhere! :)

  3. Also, I recognize Ganesha and Heph but who are the other two?

    1. The second one is Tenkeisei, the God of Heavenly Punishment in Japanese mythology, depicted ripping lesser demons in half to punish them for their mischief. (He was originally a demon himself and knows what they're up to, so he has little sympathy for them.)

      The fourth one shows a sphinx giving homage to the Aten, the sun disk in the upper right with the thousand creepy hands coming down off it, from the Amarna period in Egypt when Akhenaten was trying to make sole worship of the sun all the rage with everybody.

      The animated one at the bottom is Achilles and Ajax playing a dice game during the Trojan War, probably to pass the time between skirmishes since they haven't taken off their armor or put away their weapons.

  4. Any new updates?

    I love all your work and want to brag on you guys to all my friends and podcast listeners!