Divorcing Word: Embracing Markdown and Git for Game Writing

Over the course of 2016 I have traveled a long but (surprisingly!) easy journey to simplify my writing practices by eliminating distractions from as much of my design tools as possible. Most definitely the biggest and most drastic change in this process was moving away from my go-to standard of Microsoft Word, and instead adopting the Markdown language as my new main writing format. I’ve mentioned this a bit over the past few months on my Google Plus stream, and have had numerous folks ask me to do a longer write-up on my experiences with this dev process transition. To that end I’ve written this feature to lay down the basics of my process shift, and encourage others to do similarly to simplify their own methods. Even this post is written in Markdown!

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My Life as a Former MS Word Fanboy

Until this point I have been a pretty die-hard seemingly-life-long MS Word fanboy. I was at one point a notorious MS Word blow-hard in my circles, in fact. I was trained to use Word in a pretty intense legal environment, and through that training learned pretty much every trick that software had. I was a mouse-free keyboard whiz with docx files, and quite proud of it. Word was my Jam, and I will probably be mentally cycling through my most-used shortcuts until the day I lay on my death bed. Continue reading

Motobushido: A New Conflict Conundrum

I’m now facing a design conundrum with Motobushido and I’m hoping I can get some outside input. It regards the core conflict mechanic, the Duel. Currently and pretty much since the shift to playing cards way back when, the mechanic has been a one-to-three-stage procession of escalating violence and intensity, winner take all. The first stage, called “the Confrontation,” is just positioning, intimidation, showmanship, insults, and so on. The conflict can easily end at this stage, and if so, the consequences are small and simple, and not realy long-lasting.

At any point, one side can escalate to actual violence and enter stage two, “The Struggle.” Weapons are drawn, wounds are made, and both sides are actively trying to beat the other down. Should the duel end in this stage, the consequences must be more severe, and can include permanent wounds, marred legacies, and other such long-lasting changes.

Again, either contestant can then choose to escalate to the third and final stage, “The Finishing Blow.” This involves actives attempts to murder each other. Consequences of loss here can and should include death or serious crippling injury, destruction of legacy, and so on. Continue reading

Gamestorm 2012 Recap Time

(Eek! I wrote this a few nights ago but forgot to set it to auto-post. So it’s a bit late. My bad!)

This past weekend was Gamestorm 2012, which I like to call “Portland’s Annual Gaming Convention in Vancouver.” You can read about the convention in my post history and on its own website, so I’m just gonna skip on ahead to the highlights.

For me, the biggest and most awesome parts of the weekend were the two first-ever public playtests of Motobushido. I finally got to put my newest creation in the hands of total strangers who had never heard of it before. The results were pretty powerful: after two full sessions of play, I walked away not only with pages of rules tweaks and updates, but with some damn fine gaming memories as well. I found it interesting to see how the same basic scenario idea was so drastically altered between the two different groups. I’ll definitely be fleshing that one out a bit more and including it in the core book.

Aside from those demos, I really spent most of my time at the Indie Hurricane booth in the Dealer Room. I met some great new local gamers, and had some good discussions about gaming-related ideas that opened my mind to new perspectives. Some thanks and acknowledgements:

  • Many, many thanks to Hans Otterson for the rides to the convention.
  • Even more thanks to Joel Shempert for making the Indie Hurricane booth run smoothly, and for putting the whole effort together.
  • Thanks to the guy at the FaceEater booth for finally teaching me how to play this game. It was a lot of fun, and I look forward to more games with my local pals.

I walked away with some cool swag from the GM Gift Room – namely a copy of Feng Shui, which I’ve been meaning to grab for some time now based on the recommendations of many. And of course, after the con, there was much sleeping.

I’m really eager to build some new semi-regular game-nights with those of you that I’ve just met. Let’s make this happen, folks!

[H66] Maneuver Mechanics

For a while now, I’ve been enamored with the idea of the motobushi each having an array of special empowerments at their fingertips, abilities which would let them bend certain rules to their favor in particular situations. While I’ve developed a hefty array of these powers, I’ve been struggling with the proper method for bringing them into play without totally destroying mechanical balance. After last night’s second playtest, I think I’ve finally figured it out.

One of the game’s main themes involves investing current power into future options, and the choice between what works right now and what might work in a few moments. I’m going to keep with that theme when implementing maneuvers. Instead of just being able to activate them left and right at will, or placing artificial “only once per shindig” limitations upon them, I’m going to require that players actually use cards from their hand to activate them. Each maneuver will have an Activation Rank, starting at 10 and going down with character advancement. By sacrificing a card from your hand with a face rank higher than the maneuver’s activation, you can use that maneuver’s ability.

This enhances the strategy behind the conflict, and should hopefully work nicely with the innate risk vs reward setup. Players will have to choose between holding onto the higher cards for use against their opponent, or investing them into their maneuvers for immediate effect.

Now it just remains to be tested.

[H66] The War Pigs: Desertion, Regicide, and Survivors

Thanks to Jake Richmond, Ben Lehman, Mike Sugarbaker, and Joe Streckert for participating in the first-run playtest of Project H66, aka the Motorcycle Samurai game. Last night I got to see the First Founding and the character generation rules in action, and initial thoughts are mostly positive. Definite Success!

Initial player-established War details were wicked awesome: The war is an “undeclared foreign war” against “massive hordes of unwashed primitives.” Despite their side’s use of “rolling dreadnought tanks with massive 100+-member crews,” the war was ultimately lost, the home economy across the sea ravaged, and the soldiers were all stranded there with “nothing to go home to.” The locals are usually known by their derogative nickname, “the shitweeds.”

The First Founding featured four soldiers in a moment of crisis: The war is lost – do we follow the suicide charge orders, or do we retreat to live and fight another day? The Sergeant tried to convince everyone that this charge was their destiny, their duty as soldiers. The Recruit dissented, having a family back home, but was quickly insulted by the Sapper. This provoked the Recruit into lashing out, which spawned a vicious explosion-heavy fight between him and the Sapper. The Recruit ultimately took the Sapper’s head, but the fight was so traumatic that he then simply fell to his knees and wept as The Enemy ran him down. The Sergeant and the Veteran, meanwhile, finally agreed that this was indeed a waste of their lives, and they rode off into the night, retreating from the charge.

This resulted in their Pack’s First Founding being colored by the following three grabs: Desertion, Regicide, and Survivors. Ouch.

Character creation was next. Sarge and the Veteran remain in the pack today as Den Mother and Trail Blazer respectively, along with a new Leader (the Road Captain) and a Masked member from the local populace (The Enforcer). A nice variety of Bikes and Fighting Styles were chosen, although the group’s off-road capability is very, very limited.

Following that the players laid out the actual details of the Pack itself. Calling themselves the War Pigs, they all wear masks styled after demonic boars, which are required attire when astride their bikes. The leader’s command icon is an old bleached skull from a massive pig-monster which once almost wiped out the entire Pack. Called The Boar by the pack, each member has also secretly given it its own name that no one else knows. This skull is mounted as a standard on the leader’s chopper, and frequently adorned with trophies from fallen enemies. Attaching these trophies is called “feeding the Boar” and one of the Pack’s taboos is that the Boar must be regularly fed, or bad things happen to them. They ritually partake in copious amounts of drugs, frequently going on peyote-like spirit quests, guided by the Boar. They don’t care about hairstyles, as long as their facial hair is curled into Boar Tusks (one of them even has similar facial tattoos). Finally, they have a taboo against sleeping in the same bed twice, unless they are “on furlough.”

Their prospect-initiation ritual is rather gruesome. Upon being first allowed to ride as prospect, the newcomer must wear a mask made from an actual boar’s face, tanned and stinking. This mask must be worn until he makes his first solo kill of a marked enemy of the Pack. There was also discussion of the Prospect having to eventually stew and eat the mask, but I’m not sure if those details got hammered out and committed to Pack law.

I look forward to seeing The War Pigs in action in the coming sessions.

Post-Session Musings

The default “suicide charge” First Founding scene seems to work well enough, but I’m thinking it might not be fully apparent that committing to the charge doesn’t necessarily mean the characters are doomed to die. Believing that they are might factor into their decision.

The basic conflict mechanic worked out well, but needs some in-the-face clarification. I need to make a cheat sheet and print it on the character sheet itself, just a quick bullet list of things to consider (like the two ways in which Ki can be spent for bonus cards).

Some dragging aspects of the Pack Creation system were very immediately apparent. Sacrifices were too many, and took too long to come up with and then write down. Going forward, I’m changing it to a stripped-down, more group-inclusive process: define one sacrifice for yourself, and one each for the guys to your left and right.

There are too many initial Grabs. Revision: First Founding survivors get two free Grabs (those they inherited from the first scene). All characters get one free grab attached to each of their three Trappings (Role, Style, and Bike). The Pack as an entity itself has three Grabs as well, established at the end of the First Founding. Undecided if players can then nominate one last bonus Grab for the player next to them.

Also, the Rank bidding system is confusing and ultimately unnecessary. I’m stripping it out and replacing it with simple group discussion.