Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Hero's Journey: The Mummy (1999)

All right, y'all, I've been saying I'd do this for a while, and it's time to actually get my general coma shrugged off and do it!

Recently, John and I have been discussing various pop culture incarnations of the Hero's Journey, and what they might look like and how players might draw on them for their own characters and sagas. The stories we watch, read, and otherwise consume help inform our ideas of what heroes we like and want to emulate and what kinds of stories we tell ourselves - and also, well, they're cool and fun. So we're going to do a series where we watch movies that do a great job of showcasing different kinds of heroes who are fulfilling the Hero's Journey in their different ways, and then I'll come here and talk about it on the blog. So if you are interested in that, read on - if not, we'll be back with something more directly game-relevant in a few days!

The first movie this time is one that has obvious mythological ties, since that's a great place to start with for HJ, and is also one of my favorites: The Mummy, 1999 edition, starring Rachel Weisz, Brendan Frasier, and Arnold Vosloo. Get in here with me and let's look at the adventures of Evie, Sage extraordinaire, and her many sidekicks!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Updates with Details

Hey, everybody! I missed you all!

Since John updated you all about health stuff last time, and neither you nor I care about adding detail, let's talk about what's up with Hero's Journey instead! Accidental debilitation aside, we still worked in the interim and progress was arrested but not stopped. Onward we march.

Here's what happened during the break:

We Finally Fixed Brawn

I know. We keep saying "hooray, fixed a subsystem" and then later we say it again. But seriously, Brawn was underperforming in playtesting, specifically being less of a good value than its cousin Mettle, and players kept having conceptual problems with feeling it should be able to be applied to more physical actions. In addition, it had a lot of annoying tables attached to it for things like how much weight a Hero could lift or how hard a thing had to be before they couldn't break it anymore, which are now happily phased out so no one has to look all that nonsense up every ten minutes. Brawn is now attached to difficulties set by Destiny (like most other rolls) and can be used for a larger variety of physical pursuits, where having more raw strength or force should be able to increase the odds of success. Rejoicy, brawny Heroes!

We Made Archetypes More Carrot, Less Stick

A while ago we said that we fixed Archetypes, and we did! But while they had a "stick" component - do not do these things, or you won't be upholding your Archetype and there will be negative consequences - they needed a better "carrot" component to reward you when you did succeed at those things. So now there are some sweet, sweet XP rewards, and less confusion over when a Hero is and is not living up to their Archetypal role.

We Fixed Legacy Rules About Resists

It used to be that you had to spend a Chapter Labor to activate your resistance stats (Determination, Enlightenment, Willpower) for the Episode; this was a legacy rule from the dawn of time when contention didn't exist, designed to even the playing field so that Heroes using powers on one another weren't at a disadvantage when their targets got to resist for free. Obviously, that doesn't apply anymore, so we've been marathoning all mentions and related systems to make sure it gets properly scrubbed from the game. Resists are free, and no one can take them from you.

We Consolidated Penalties From Various Sources

There were a lot of penalty systems in the first draft of this game - distraction penalties, exhaustion penalties, food/drink penalties, pain penalties, strain penalties... too many penalties, basically, and half of them were doing different things and had slightly different effects. So we eliminated some, combined others so they wouldn't be spread out everywhere, and evened them out so that they all use the unified Penalty/Bonus system that the Blessings use. Rejoice, there will be so much less looking up of things.

Astute readers will notice that this is a parade of little mechanical tweaks, and there's a reason for that - we're in the midst of our go-over of the entire system, making sure that any old rules get phased out, that any outstanding issues get resolved, and that anything that has proven clunky in playtests gets cleaned up. This is exciting because it's one of the last things we have left to do; it doesn't feel like we're almost done and of course there are other things left, but when we're finished with this bit, the system will be done. Done forever. No more tweaks allowed. If you see John heading toward a mathematical construct with that gleam of innovation in his eye after this point, shoot him. It's the only way he'll learn.

In fact, here, this is what our remaining to-do list for finishing the game looks like:

1: Complete the Mechanics Pass
Currently, we've covered the first 3.5/6 chapters, which represents the stuff you see above. Still remaining is the second half of the play chapter, the entire saga design chapter, and the Blessings chapter. The first two will be more likely to yield changes and fixes; the Blessings chapter is basically just powers, which have to be gone over to make sure they don't reference or use legacy mechanics but should otherwise be mostly self-sufficient.

2: Complete the Appendix
The appendix is short and sweet, so this will mostly involve statting up NPCs and sample creatures for folks to use in their games, providing tables of random events or specific game mechanics that select from a range of options, and making sure maps are up to date.

3: Fix Outstanding Blessings
The vast majority of Blessings are completed and testing just fine, but there are a few that have to be replaced - either they were based on mechanics we changed in our editing pass and don't make sense or work quite right anymore, or in testing they turned out not to be as great as we hoped and they need a few adjustments to make players happier. I don't have the exact number of outstanding Blessings in front of me, but my estimate from last time I looked at the file is something like 15-20 - so not chump change, but not a huge number, either!

4: Update Devotionals
Devotional powers for each pantheon have some of the same issues - they need rewrites where they were using legacy mechanics, and because they were more audacious than regular Blessings, they had more kinks to work out from playtesting. This is the part that will probably take us the longest, but we've had lots of help from our consultants (thanks, Tanay and Elizabeth!) and we'll keep you updated about it as it goes along.

5: Blessing Rewrites
This part is just totally on me - right now, Blessings are written in what we think of as the "old style", a prose-descriptive style that is fun to read but can be hard to pick mechanics out of and takes up a lot of page space. They're getting rewritten to a more streamlined, easy-to-read format, which is entirely on me and will be ongoing as soon as the outstanding ones in #3 are completed.

And y'all... that's it. Obviously, you're all still waiting so I don't expect any celebration on your end, but we're feeling the renewed determination of seeing the end of the tunnel, so I wanted to share it with you, too. Questions and suggestions in the comments, and regular blog posts will hopefully resume from now on!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Health and Status Update

Hey everyone!
My apologies this is a few days late. Its health update and I've been trying but failing to write it for a while now. Going to give up trying to write it like normal and do some bullet points.

Meeting time!

1. About a week and a half ago Anne had a relapse. Overworking, plus holidays, plus some other stresses just all came at once in December.

2. She is fine. As usual she doesn't want me to go into details. But some parts of her routine have been changed up and hopefully she'll be back in good health soon.

3. Anne is back to voice to text. So she won't be able to write much for the near future. We're going to try to ease her back into it, but she loves doing it and is very sad when she can't write (and worries about disappointing people), so who knows.

4. For the near future my responsibilities will also be taxed. I'm going to do my best to make Hero's Journey time each week But its going to be rough the next 2-3 weeks while Anne heals.

5. I'm going to keep running the three playtests. Getting data and taking notes on everything. There have a been a decent amount of blessing tweaks so far. Each game has very different types of players and its interesting to see them interact with the game in such different ways.

6. I urge you to keep an eye on the HJ twitter on game days. The character tweets are pretty entertaining and its a great place to ask the players (or me) if you have any specific questions about the playtests.

Game Times are (EST):
Monday: 7-10pm
Thursday: 8-11pm
Sunday: 12-3pm

My apologies again that this was late and doesn't have much interesting stuff. I hope to bring you a better update next time.