Some might remember that I started to write another game last year: BASTARD! ... with lots of wild theories what I'd like to see in it, a combat system, a setting, the high mark to use all the house rules I never got to use in Lost Songs. It turned out to be a bit, let's say, problematic. Combat was basically too bugged and clunky and that dungeonheist thingy, well, it didn't happen. Or did it? This is where I'm at (and maybe a bit about my process of creating).
Time is one of the great advantages if you don't work towards anything but developing a game (or whatever). If you encounter a problem, you can just put the whole thing aside and let LIFE (tm) do the rest. Because that's what happens if you let things ... stew.
I originally started writing BASTARD! to get my fingers busy while I was hitting a dry spell in Lost Songs. Not a bad idea as long as you are able to switch gears, if my experiences are any indication. Problem was, I hit a wall in the wrong game. Combat didn't work and while setting and core system are still solid, I started realizing that if I kept going the way I did, I wouldn't end up with a light system. Or (worse) something I would never play myself!
So I started ignoring it, thinking about just doing the setting for some D&D or writing modules, getting those house rules into a more "solid" published form (pdf). not that I didn't already start something like this already years back ...
But to quote the classic: Time is on your side (da dada)! And looky here, I feel ready to talk about it again, because there are several new developments worth talking about.
1. Is it wrong to try to pick up girls in a Dungeon?
Sometimes it just needs a notch to get the old noggin ticking again. The anime series Dungeon ni Deai o Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru Darō ka was the first notch, if you will. I won't spoil anything by saying that the show is about the Greek pantheon coming down to earth to build outfits that explore and loot a huge dungeon (babel) for them. Those gods are mingling, but basically they'll keep it in the background, even tuning their powers down. They are handlers.
|They got some epic fights goin' ... [source]|
I enjoyed the show for several other reasons, but what stuck with me was the similarity to ideas I had already formulated but not connected. In BASTARD! each group will have their own handler (the brains of the operation) and their own (petty) god. One of the basic ideas had been to let the groups cleric regain control over shrines ("hacking" them, because Cyberpunk ...), making his god more powerful shrine by shrine. That show made me realize the handler and the god might as well be the same entity (looking back now I think it's kind of obvious ...)!
So the demons invaded the world using temples and shrines everywhere. The mighty gods had fallen and only the petty gods managed to stay around, if in hiding. Now they build little guerrilla outfits to fight back with sabotage and urban warfare, one Dungeon at a time.
2. Centurion (2010)
This movie was the second notch. As I wrote above, the combat system didn't work as I hoped it would and the main reason to lay this game to rest had been that I didn't find a satisfying solution for that specific problem. I'm not even sure I already got the solution, but that movie showed me one thing that I want in the game: Splatter!
As with the anime above, I enjoyed the movie for other reasons (although gore is always welcome), but the relentless killing in that movie was ... inspiring. Let me explain: there seemed to be some sort of categories at work where the importance of a character made him die in a much more brutal way than those others merely standing by. Basically, if you had some screen time other than dying, you would die more spectacular.
|That intense! [source]|
Another thing that happened on a regular basis where the one-hit kills. No hp, just people getting cut down. This is not realistic, of course, but it got me thinking. I already have a resolution system where you collect successes and the same principles established for combat (somewhat). What, now, if it became a tactical decision if you spend the points to kill an enemy in a spectacular way (and gain way more xp!) or just get him out of the picture (for less xp, of course).
A system that welcomes cooperation (even more xp for combo actions with other players!) and where planning ahead is important because anything else is very, very deadly ... I'm not quite there yet, but I'm getting there. I can feel a solution lingering somewhere in the back of my head, teasing.
Anyway, BASTARD! will be all about bringing bloody doom to evil.
3. The Grind
At that point I had to sit down and start writing again. The first thing I changed, before tackling the rules again, was the name, though. For one, it helps seeing the game with fresh eyes. The other reason is that I try to find an own language for the game and I like playing with the possibilities.
Those breaking into dungeons to loot them for valuables and disturb the establishment are on "the grind" and that's what the game is called now. There are also lots of games already out there with "bastard" either in the name or close enough. I don't need that. And the Urban Dictionary tells me "the grind" means being on the job. I like that.
|Now I need a new cover, too ...|
Consistency is important, for the language of the rules as much as for anything else. I'm not sure I'll be able to pull it off completely, but trying is half the fun :)
4. DM Tools - What is a "Dungeonheist"
One more thing. One last thing, I should say. I think DM tools are not only necessary in every role playing game worth it's salt, they are also a great opportunity to add to the game close to the system already in place. In other words, it's easy enough to use something like the Monster Reaction Roll from D&D in every other game. it's ported easy enough. But having rules tailored to the system you are using can be so much better, right?
Well, nothing came to mind for The Grind. Until today. The trick, I think, is to find a way to allow a fast, flexible and deep system a GrindMeister (Bam!) could use on the fly. So what I did was writing a card based adventure generator. It's not tested yet and I need to fix one or two things, but it's looking good (if I may say so). I aim to release that at least into the wild as soon as possible, maybe next weekend.
It's also the last important ingredient for the Dungeonheist concept. So the handler gives the grinders a heist. Interpreting a set of randomly drawn cards (depending on how intense the mission should be) the GM already knows what the objectives are (macro stage), how well it is protected or if other parties are involved (among other things).
The next stage is planning (meso stage). For that the players will have a group sheet where they not only have their gear all in one place, but are also able to fine-tune their skill set as they see fit (fast or cautious, how armed, how protected, who in what function, the works ...). In some mission it might be critical to find and hack a shrine to get godly support (maybe for access or healing or protection ...), others might be hit and run.
The third stage is actually going on the grind (micro stage). It's where the shit hits the fan and nothing works as planned ...
|Another inspiration: Reservoir Dogs [source]|
So expect more about this soon!
I'm writing the game when I can't do anything else. Another week and I might be ready to test it and show it some friends (as I'm on a run right now), but I won't plan anything. Let's just see how this goes down. Right now I'm positive that I'll be able to show some results very soon (ha!).
I still aim to make this a quick and dirty exploration-based dungeonheist splatter steampunk role playing game with some urban warfare and anime trappings for good measure ... but I think this description isn't long enough just yet :)