Category Archives: Game Design

When Orcs Are Real

I have come up against an interesting challenge this week.

As some of you will remember I am working on a Wild West game. I like to use anything I am working on to maximum effect. To this end I am happy to throw a bit of money at things as needed. Having the right tools for the job can make all the difference and being interested in game design does not make you a brilliant artist, page setter or professional writer.

As my setting is a real historical period there is plenty of public domain art and original photography so from an art perspective the challenge is not to get great art created it is more about gathering real images that tick all the right boxes, that fit the chapter contents and so on. Then it is about having a game art style and making sure all the art fits that style regardless of its original source. This is more graphic design or even photo editing rather than ‘art’. The undoubted king of this sort of image manipulation is Photoshop.

Page layout is one of those things that can make a game look professional or amateur. Along with the layout are things like cross referencing, tables of contents, a good index and other elements that make the rulebook easy to use at the game table. In a PDF that also includes bookmarks and layers for ease of printing. Scribus is a perfectly valid page layout application but InDesign is more feature rich.

So if you are going to buy Photoshop and InDesign than you may as well have CreativeSuite. So that was my first investment in the game.

I also bought some books on using Photoshop and Indesign as the best software in the world will do you no good if you don’t know how to use it.

No I come to the real challenge. I am of an age where we used to play Cowboy’s and Indians when we were young and Western films more often than not had ‘Indians’ or ‘Red Indians’ as the default villain. When we played Boot Hill the Apache were the default bad guys. At the time we didn’t give this a second thought.

Now when it comes to writing a game in this genre Native Americans are a real people and many of them will be role players. These real people are not the cardboard cut out ‘bad guys’ of the movies but a wide range of culturally individual nations. In gaming terms Native Americans are not simply the Orcs of a different genre, they are real people and often the ‘historical events’ behind many Hollywood movies have more than one interpretation!

One of the things I have struggled with writing up this game is not the game mechanics, they are easy, it was the setting. So to solve that problem I have employed a professional writer. He has experience of writing for Pathfinder amongst other RPGs so understood the needs of an RPG rulebook.

It was much harder than I had imagined to write about the Old West. I think part of the problem was that as I am British this is not my culture and not part of my history. I kind of knew in principle what I wanted but putting it into text was leading into cul-de-sac after cul-de-sac of bad text.

On the other hand employing an American writer this is much more real and personal for them. Freelance writers are massively under paid in my opinion and I am getting three entire chapters of the book written to a professional standard for under $250.

So looking back at what I have spent on this project, excluding my own time which I would never charge for as it is my hobby and I only do it when I want to and purely for fun it is easy to see how and why many kickstarters have target values in the few thousands of Dollars, Euros or Pounds. If I could not get my art for next to nothing then my bills would certainly be mounting up.

I also really like the way the game is shaping up and cannot wait to see the finished game. I think one last challenge I want to put before this game is that of making it the subject of a kickstarter campaign of my own. I know what it has cost to create and so can put a realistic price tag on it. I have been happy to spend what I spent on the game but if I get that back then I can reinvest it in making more games. If I don’t then it is no real loss. With the money out of the equation as unimportant then a kickstarter campaign simply becomes a way of bringing the game before the eyeballs of more potential players. There is nothing better for a game designer than having people play your game. That is the real reward.

Relativity!

Today I finished reading “Time for the Stars”, a classic young-adult science-fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein. You might be asking yourselves now why I am reading old young-adult novels and what it has to do with roleplaying games. Please bear with me.

One of my favorite websites is Atomic Rockets by Winchell Chung. It’s a resource mainly for writers which explains basically almost every aspect of space travel. It helps you to get your science right, if that’s something you’re interested in. The article about “torchships” mentioned Heinlein’s story several times, so I decided to track down a copy and give it a read.

torchshipManchu

I have to admit that the story is not as interesting as I hoped. It’s about a twin travelling on the torchship Lewis & Clark to the stars while the other twin remains at home. They have a telepathic connection which continues to work even though the ship is light years away from home. But what sets the novel apart is the fact that Heinlein actually got a lot of the science right. The torchships are beyond what we could build today, but the technology is plausible. He also made sure he got special relativity right. This means that the time is moving differently for the space-travelling twin. When he returns he barely aged, while the one who stayed on Earth is an old man.

Continue reading Relativity!

Distress Call, a Starfinder adventure on Kickstarter, an interview with the author.

A couple of weeks ago I found about a new product in Kickstarter. With the success of Starfinder there are a slew of new third-party products available. Many push the system in new and interesting directions.  However, I learned about this project vial the Google+ Stargazer’s World Community. The author shared the campaign, and I was really intrigued by the fact the project was being created in Mexico. I contacted the author, Davide Tramma, to learn more about From Beyond: Distress Call, a sci-fi adventure. He was kind enough to answer my questions, here is the interview.

Sunglar: Davide, before we talk specifically about your Kickstarter project, let’s get to know you. Who is Davide Tramma? Where are you from?

Davide: Well, I’m many things and that depends of the point of view. I’m a husband, I’m a teacher, I’m a cook, I’m a player. Essentially, I’m all the things that I’ve been through during the 40 years I have been here. In few words, I’m what I like to do and at the same time what I don’t.

Sunglar: How did you start playing role-playing games? Continue reading Distress Call, a Starfinder adventure on Kickstarter, an interview with the author.