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Author Topic: [Robots & Rapiers] Power 19  (Read 8844 times)
Valamir
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« on: May 02, 2007, 03:20:44 PM »

1.) What is your game about?

Robots & Rapiers is about characters discovering that everything they thought they knew about themselves and their world was a programmed illusion, and how they transform and reinvent themselves as they become more self-aware -- what they choose to do, and whether their new found awareness will save their world, reinvent it, or be a source of its destruction.


2.) What do the characters do?

Characters are robots initially programmed to play the part of swashbuckling heroes and supporting cast in an elaborate future theme park for the benefit of human guests.  Initially they will participate in largely staged / railroaded "adventures" that would have provided entertainment for the guests.

As they progress down the road to true sentience they realize that their entire world (including themselves) is an artificial construct for the entertainment of people who are long dead.  They then must take a stand to help preserve that world, to help tear it down, or to manipulate it for their own ends.


3.) What do the players (including the GM if there is one) do?

The players play the desires, passions, and interests of their robot's growing sense of Free Will.
The GM plays the encoded personality and purpose of the robot's programmed role.
Yes, sometimes (often initially) the GM will be playing the player's characters for them.

Initially players will thus have their robots do the things that their robots are supposed to do...fight duels of honor, help the downtrodden, rescue damsels in distress.  The GM will provide randomly generated "stock" adventures and then ruthlessly railroad the characters through it. 

Eventually, as the characters become more self aware, the players will gain more control over what their characters do and begin to break away from the railroaded adventures and create their own purpose, goals, and agenda.


4.) How does your setting (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?

The setting is presented like an elaborate theme park, like Disney or Busch Gardens without the thrill rides and with the costumed actors played by robots.  Its designed to be fun and exciting (who doesn't like high flying swashbuckling action?) so that players both a) can enjoy the time when they're railroaded through those high flying swashbuckling adventures and b) making the Free Will choice to preserve the world as it is (because its fun that way) is a viable player option.


5.) How does the Character Creation of your game reinforce what your game is about?

The game is designed to be run with stock pregen "Three Musketeer" type characters that are simply assigned to the players.  Character Creation rules are provided, but the intention is for the GM to design the characters based on the "stock campaign" they want to railroad the players through.

Players will thus find themselves playing a character they had no hand in creating...just like a robot who Sparks and becomes aware for the first time, had no hand in determining its own programmed role or nature.


6.) What types of behaviors/styles of play does your game reward (and punish if necessary)?

Initially the game is set up for the players to embrace swashbuckling genre tropes.  The reward system encourages players to have their characters attempt to break with those tropes (i.e. do their own thing) and be rewarded for it when the GM railroads them back on track.

The mechanics reward creative, on the fly, invention of stunts, special moves, and feats of derring-do by making the characters much more effective the more actions they perform in combination.


7.) How are behaviors and styles of play rewarded or punished in your game?

The players are rewarded for being railroaded by being given the currency that allows them to become more self aware (and thus more difficult to rail road).  The GM is rewarded for being obvious and upfront with the railroading (i.e. no "illusion") with mechanics that let them intervene at any point and force a player to take a character suitable action.

Players are rewarded for creative feats of swashbuckly-ness by a resolution system that makes characters more effective for doing exciting stunts.  Jumping from the balcony, swinging from the chandelier, and attacking with a rapier is more effective than attacking alone.  Taking on (or putting down) multiple opponents at a time is built into mechanics from the start.


8.) How are the responsibilities of narration and credibility divided in your game?

Initially the division is very traditional.  Players describe their character's actions, GM describes everything else.
Player describes how their robot succeeds, GM describes how their robot fails.

Through the Role / Self Awareness mechanic, however, narration and credibility get reapportioned.
The GM can use the mechanic to interfer with how the player describes their character's actions or to take control of describing the robot's success.  Players can use the mechanic to describe how their robot fails.

As the robots become more self aware they gain an increased ability to influence world events.  Players can influence the world's major factions, develop networks of allies, dependents, and patsies to do their work for them, pursue an agenda to help prop up the status quo or over throw it, and force the GM to run a specific adventure tailor made for them to pursue their own agendas.


9.) What does your game do to command the players' attention, engagement, and participation? (i.e. What does the game do to make them care?)

At an in-game level, the fate of the world is in the player's hands.  The "world" is a complete mechanical system that is set in motion into an eventual death spiral that will almost inevitably lead to a bad ending (like everybody runs out of power and "dies").  The players can make various choices that can lead to staving off this end, or bringing a happier more utopian end.  Their characters can reshape society.

At a meta game level, the game puts the traditional power struggle between player and GM into stark relief with actual mechanics to resolve what normally would get resolved with posturing and social manipulation.  The goal is to highlight some of those techniques and by putting them on display in the open show both how the power division can be handled functionally and demonstrate how and why it can get dysfunctional.  Its intended for the observing and participation in this overt process to be a compelling and interesting element of play first by helping the players share in the frustration of their programmed robots (who initially can't do what they want to) and then by helping transition the power and credibility to the players giving them the ability and responsibility to provide direction for the game.


10.) What are the resolution mechanics of your game like?

Primary resolution is based on a die pool whose size is dependent on the relative importance of the robot.  Players "stuck" playing side kick and supporting characters are thus mechanically significantly inferior to players playing "heroic / main" characters.  As time goes on, the inferior characters become more self aware faster, making them more effective during the end game, and setting the stage for players who have different priorities on whether the status quo should stay or go.

Conflict is a series of die pool rolls (of fixed size and variable target number) where instead of counting successes the result of the single best die is used.  This result is then spent, typically to either to provide bonuses to a future roll for the robot or an ally, or penalties to an enemy's future roll.  Robots can interrupt each other's actions to oppose or assist each other in a fairly free form fashion so that a single "action" may involve the participation of nearly every robot in the scene.


11.) How do the resolution mechanics reinforce what your game is about?

The primary resolution mechanics promote swashbuckling action and characters who interact with each other throughout a conflict (to help or hinder).  Robot's become more effective as they become more self aware and are less subject to having their choices in a conflict be subject to the GM.

The Role / Self Awareness secondary mechanic provides the engine for the transformation of the character from programmed character to free thinking being.


12.) Do characters in your game advance? If so, how?

Characters do not advance, they transform.  Players are assigned characters they had no part in creating.  As they become more self aware they will reinvent who their character is, making it incrementally and progressively less who it was designed to be and more who they want to be.

This process is designed to mirror the robot's own reinvention as it reprograms itself over time.


13.) How does the character advancement (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?

Transformation is the central theme of the game.  The authority structure transforms from being primarily GM driven to being primarily player driven.  The world itself transforms from being a theme park for the entertainment of humans to being a new robot society.  That society may look just like the theme park, become harsh and bleak, evolve into a progressive robot utopia and progressive...or end up in total armageddon.

The game itself transforms, playing initially like a very traditional celebration of Sim and becoming much more of a player driven theme heavy indie-game.

Likewise the characters themselves transform, deleting the personality and abilities they were programmed with, and replacing them with something new...slightly new, radically different, or even choosing to keep them mostly (or entirely) the same.


14.) What sort of product or effect do you want your game to produce in or for the players?

In game I want the game to produce the narrative of a single city, the people who live there, and the choices made that led it to prosper or die.  I want the effect of the rules on the player to mimic the effect of the world on the robots.  I want the players to feel what its like to be forced to play a character they didn't want to be.  I want the players to feel the initial frustration their robot feels as it finds its desires thwarted by its programming.  I want the players to feel the sense of triumph as they free themselves from their programming and take on larger roles within the world.  I want the players to realize that ultimately their choices saved the city, or destroyed it.


15.) What areas of your game receive extra attention and color? Why?

A large portion of the mechanics of the game deal with the world as a setting -- what's going on, what are the movers and shakers up to, what key events are unrolling, how are the player's robots caught up in these events, how are they causing these events. 

Another large section is the system to generate random stock adventures that represent the sorts of things the robots are "supposed" to be doing.  Rolling on several tables generates a broad plot line of who is doing what to whom and why are the characters involved; and provides a flow chart of events for the GM to flesh out and run the players through.


16.) Which part of your game are you most excited about or interested in? Why?

I'm really excited about the mechanization of the traditional power division and the spotlight on the world as being the central thematic "character" of the story.




The initial hook is that you play robots...with rapiers.  Then the direct involvement with with the world and the players choices on how to recreate it.  Ultimately the story is one moving from sheep doing what society expects to free thinking beings reinventing society as the wish it to be...where "society" is both at the in-game level and the meta level relationship among the players and GM.


18.) What are your publishing goals for your game?

R&R will be published as a book, almost certainly in traditional 8 1/2 x 11 RPG size to highlight the traditional starting point.  Current plans are to be full color hardcover depending on price quotes.


19.) Who is your target audience?

By making the game hefty (200-300 pages), and "simmy", and initially fairly traditional in appearance I hope to target folks who enjoy traditional gaming in unique settings.  The game then walks through step by step a transformation beyond the initial trappings.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2007, 05:38:15 PM by Valamir » Logged

xenopulse
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« Reply #1 on: May 02, 2007, 06:08:27 PM »

Quote
By making the game hefty (200-300 pages), and "simmy", and initially fairly traditional in appearance I hope to target folks who enjoy traditional gaming in unique settings.  The game then walks through step by step a transformation beyond the initial trappings.

We share some goals, I see Smiley
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xenopulse
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« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2007, 07:37:29 AM »

Well, that previous post of mine was obviously completely worthless, sorry. Smiley  I do have some actual questions:

a) You say that the world is a complete mechanical system that goes down a certain path.  Does that mean the world has stats or different states that represent where it's at?  Is that something the players try to influence?  Or did you just mean mechanical as in robotic?

b) Do other robots also become more self-aware, or just the PCs?

c) When the characters create stunts and chains of actions on the fly, how free is that system? Do they have components they select (+1 attack for leaping/+1 damage for spinning/+paralyze effect for hitting him in the eye) that are all pre-made or is there much room for the GM or the players collaboratively to decide what exactly a specific stunt does? (In other words: is it a matter of pre-determined objective parts or of having your particular stunt judged?)

d) It sounds like the GM's power over the characters at the beginning works like a veto, is that about right?  As in, the players get to control their characters but the GM can intervene and impose the "correct" action on occasions?  Is that power available at all times or does it come with limitations (aside from the emerging free will)?
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Valamir
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« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2007, 08:36:17 AM »

a) You say that the world is a complete mechanical system that goes down a certain path.  Does that mean the world has stats or different states that represent where it's at?  Is that something the players try to influence?  Or did you just mean mechanical as in robotic?

There are two stats for the world itself and then a Faction Strength score for each of the major factions.

The world stats are "Tapestry" which starts at 100 and drops to 0 and represents how secure the Theme Park Illusion is, and "Crisis" which starts at 0 and goes to 100 and represents how messed up and falling apart the city has become (riots, part shortages, energy brown outs, etc).

Each faction has a strength which determines how successful they will be at pursuing their agenda.  The Cardinal (who knows all about the illusion of the Tapestry) is convinced that if the illusion falls, all of the non aware robots will crash and fail and so is a force for the status quo.  The King is not and can never be self aware and so is also a force for the status quo.  The queen is self aware and actually is pursuing a revolution and free robot society.


Quote
b) Do other robots also become more self-aware, or just the PCs?
  There are many self aware robots ("Sparks").  Many of them have been aware for far longer than the PCs.  They have their own "society" and hierarchy in the shadows. 

Quote
c) When the characters create stunts and chains of actions on the fly, how free is that system? Do they have components they select (+1 attack for leaping/+1 damage for spinning/+paralyze effect for hitting him in the eye) that are all pre-made or is there much room for the GM or the players collaboratively to decide what exactly a specific stunt does? (In other words: is it a matter of re-determined objective parts or of having your particular stunt judged?)

Its all done by linking skill rolls.  Robots have a certain number of actions they can perform.  They can string multiple actions together with each earlier action providing a bonus to the next.  So you could use your Knowledge of Court to boost your Intrigue to get blackmail information over a rival, and use that to boost your Persuasion to get him to do what you want in a social conflict.  In a battle you could use your Observation to boost your Strategy to boost your Oratory to rally your men.  Your men could then use that bonus to boost their Athletics to boost their Fencing to attack the enemy. 

Basically if you can figure out how to use a particular skill to gain an edge in the given situation you can roll it.

d) It sounds like the GM's power over the characters at the beginning works like a veto, is that about right?  As in, the players get to control their characters but the GM can intervene and impose the "correct" action on occasions?  Is that power available at all times or does it come with limitations (aside from the emerging free will)?
[/quote]
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Dan Maruschak
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« Reply #4 on: May 03, 2007, 09:44:56 AM »

Quote
At a meta game level, the game puts the traditional power struggle between player and GM into stark relief with actual mechanics to resolve what normally would get resolved with posturing and social manipulation.  The goal is to highlight some of those techniques and by putting them on display in the open show both how the power division can be handled functionally and demonstrate how and why it can get dysfunctional.  Its intended for the observing and participation in this overt process to be a compelling and interesting element of play first by helping the players share in the frustration of their programmed robots (who initially can't do what they want to) and then by helping transition the power and credibility to the players giving them the ability and responsibility to provide direction for the game.
To me, this seems like you're saying you want the game to make a statement, for the people that play it to "get it", and then move on to something else.  But then you say:
Quote
By making the game hefty (200-300 pages), and "simmy", and initially fairly traditional in appearance I hope to target folks who enjoy traditional gaming in unique settings.  The game then walks through step by step a transformation beyond the initial trappings.
To me, a "hefty" game implies the kind of player investment that only pays off if you play the game again and again, to amortize the cost of learning it.  Am I misunderstanding what you're going for, or is this a conflict in the design?

Quote
The game itself transforms, playing initially like a very traditional celebration of Sim and becoming much more of a player driven theme heavy indie-game.
Are you looking for players who enjoy both part 1 and part 2?  Are you hoping that the player's prefences themselves will transform?

Quote
I want the players to feel what its like to be forced to play a character they didn't want to be.  I want the players to feel the initial frustration their robot feels as it finds its desires thwarted by its programming.
Since "frustration" is traditionally an un-fun thing, is there a risk this initial stage of the game won't be fun for the players?  How much of the game do you imagine to take place in this "frustrating mode", a few minutes, a few hours, a few months?

I think "free will" gameplay mechanics are an interesting topic, so I'm interested in seeing where you go with this.  Good luck!
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Valamir
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« Reply #5 on: May 03, 2007, 01:25:47 PM »

Hey Dan, interesting line of questions...lets see if I can respond adequately to them.

"make a statement" is perhaps too strong.  Its there, its a feature of play, but I don't really want it to be preachy.  But if a player or two initially balks at the idea that the GM can take over their character and force it to act a certain way and then makes the connection that that's "just like being told 'no your Lawful Good Paladin would never do that'" and then makes the connection between Programmed Robot vs. Free Thinking Person...and so "gets it" that would make me happy.  But its not as if "getting it" ends the game.  I suspect the great majority of players (especially indie game veterans) will get it right off.

I'm not harboring any illusions that a dedicated traditional-division-of-power gamer is going to start off playing R&R and end up a dedicated indie-punk player.  But the game does provide specific "its in the rules" ways for the player to take control of certain areas.  For instance "its in the rules" that the player can spend some resources and tell the GM what sort of situation they want their robot to be involved with.  To the extent that a player or two who wouldn't otherwise do this, finds it fun, and carries the concept back to other games where there aren't specific rules for it...that would be cool.

The game has a built in cycle that should take in the 9-12 session range to go through completely, although some additional tweaking to get the timing right is needed.

I'm a fan of sympathetic mechanics...a fight scene that's supposed to be fast and snappy should have mechanics that play out fast and snappy...that sort of thing.  So in a sense, its...meta level immersion.  In standard immersion the character is feeling frustrated, I the player project myself into the character and so experience the characters frustration through the vehicle of the character.  What this does is set up a situation where the character is feeling frustrated, and I the player am also feeling frustrated, not because I'm channelling the character but because my source of frustration is parallel to the character.  Yes, there is a point where that can become unfun, but in the game the more the GM "frustrates" the player...the faster the character transforms...which is fun, and which also makes it harder for the GM to continue to "frustrate" the player in that manner.  So it should strike a pretty good equilibrium.


Oh, and because I missed it earlier and it somewhat fits here as well:
Quote
d) It sounds like the GM's power over the characters at the beginning works like a veto, is that about right?  As in, the players get to control their characters but the GM can intervene and impose the "correct" action on occasions?  Is that power available at all times or does it come with limitations (aside from the emerging free will)?

Its can be a veto "No, you're an honorable gentleman of good breeding, you definitely would not punch the duchess in the gut" or it can be more proactive "your robot is a rake, so of course he's going to flirt with the Duke's wife".  In fact, the random scenario generator has built in triggers to kick the adventure off that robots are programmed to respond to "the crying damsel asks for your aid...of course you're going to give it". 

In a nutshell it works like this.  Robots have a "Role Score" which indicates how much of a slave to their programming they are.  GMs must roll against this score any time they want to prevent a course of action the player has declared, or force the robot into a course of action the player doesn't want.  Either way the GM must remain 100% consistant with the character's role (can't have the dashing gentleman act like a boob).  If the roll fails the GM can roll again, and keep rolling until it succeeds...so in this way, as long as even a scrap of the robot's programming remains the GM can ALWAYS get his way.  But each time the roll is made the robot earns a point of Inspiration which allows them to decrease their Role Score (and increase their Self Awareness).

Further, the players can preempt the GM by rolling against their Self Awareness.  With success the player can have their robot do whatever they like and the GM CANNOT do the above at all.  The player can also continue to roll until it succees, so even with just a scrap of self awareness the player can make sure they get their way when they want to .  But each time they make a roll it costs them a point of Inspiration.

Once a robot's Role hits 0 the GM can never succeed and so the robot is truly an indpendent free thinking being.

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Troy_Costisick
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« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2007, 02:12:54 PM »

Heya Ralph,

I have a couple questions about your game.  It looks like it is set in the future.  Does "future-ness" come into play at all?  I mean the robots are swashbucklers, how does that look to the rest of the world.

Also, what is the replay-ability of this game like?  Is there an over-arching cause the players might get involved in?  Like a robot rebellion or something?

Finally, are there different kinds of theme parks the PCs can begin at?  And if so, do they each have a different effect on how the game begins? or end?

Peace,

-Troy
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Valamir
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« Reply #7 on: May 07, 2007, 03:46:22 PM »

Heya Ralph,

I have a couple questions about your game.  It looks like it is set in the future.  Does "future-ness" come into play at all?  I mean the robots are swashbucklers, how does that look to the rest of the world.

It is set in the "future" in the sense that in order to have robotic technology to that level the future is required.  Its also set on another planet because I wanted all the people to be dead.  So there is no Robot / Human interaction...that would wind up over powering the theme I wanted.  Its on another planet because I at least wanted the option for the GM to reintroduce humans at some point (so some needed to be alive) but its definitely not a canonical occurance.


Quote
Also, what is the replay-ability of this game like?  Is there an over-arching cause the players might get involved in?  Like a robot rebellion or something?

Replay should be fairly high, especially for players who want to explore different avenues.  PCs could seek to overthrow the current establishment.  PCs could seek to support the current establishment and gain power within it.  PCs could ignore that struggle entirely for personal gain.  Players could try transforming their robot into something completely different or maintain largely who they were.  Players could seek to support the Queen or oppose her.  Plus all of the randomized faction interactions and crises will provide a different back drop.

Quote
Finally, are there different kinds of theme parks the PCs can begin at?  And if so, do they each have a different effect on how the game begins? or end?

There are.  They each get a few paragraphs of summary, with the idea of GMs being able to use them or not.  They may be fleshed out in future supplements or left undefined.

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Larry L.
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aka Miskatonic


« Reply #8 on: May 07, 2007, 07:16:44 PM »

Ralph,

Here's a little anxiety I've had about this game:

Do I need to know anything about 17th-century France to play this competently? If I sit down to play this with the guy who's read the complete works of Dumas and I'm like, "Uh, I think I saw a movie about that," will I be the slow kid at the table?

My concern probably comes from, if you handed me Universalis and said, "Let's do something Three Musketeers period!" I might be a little intimidated.

So, is that kind of background info included in the "hefty, simmy" treatment?
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Valamir
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« Reply #9 on: May 07, 2007, 07:28:05 PM »

Heh.

The city was designed as a theme park.  So, Auvernais is as historically French as Busch Gardens is historically Bavarian or Frontier Land at Disney World is authentically 19th century American frontier.

If you have a vision of what a dashing hero with a rapier should do in order to be a dashing hero with a rapier you can play the game fine.

Of course, if the GM has a different idea about what a dashing hero with a rapier should do...that's what Role Checks are for.
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Falc
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Posts: 80


« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2007, 12:50:41 AM »

I'm at work so I've only skimmed this, but I'll certainly read it more in depth since it's very much like an idea I've had floating in the back of my head.

However, to offer a different opinion to Larry Lade, it seems pretty clear to me that the musketeer setting is just a setting that can be replaced by another without too much trouble. Combining musketeers and robots is certainly something I haven't seen done before, but this novelty aspect doesn't strike me as essential to the game.

Basically, I believe you could run this just as easily in a space-themed amusement park. Or in a Gaul village theme park.
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Valamir
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« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2007, 05:43:42 AM »

Sketched in the game now are:

The Dark Continent: for Livingston meets Quartermain meets Lost World, where the computer virus like "loa" spirits have gone mad and taken over.

The Gold Coast: for pirate adventures on the high seas with the main populated by "spanish" forts and "Aztec" pyramids

Valhalla: where fallen warriors fight each day and feast in the halls of the gods perpetually at the edge of Ragnorak...except now that edge has been crossed.

Camelot: Where only Guenevere and Morgan le-fey have become self aware and are stuggling for control.


Those are all possibilities for future supplements (including fan created options).  The core game gives just enough information for robots to visit, or for a robot from another park to come to Auvernais.
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Mikael
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Posts: 206


« Reply #12 on: May 08, 2007, 09:55:57 AM »

Heh. I read the playtest/intro thing two years ago, and totally missed the really cool "from rails to empowered goodness" thing. At that time I was not really impressed by the whole swashbuckling thing; now I'm hooked.
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Valamir
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« Reply #13 on: May 08, 2007, 10:03:23 AM »

Quote
now I'm hooked


Well, as per This Thread, I'm still looking for a last round of playtesting.  So if you're interested shoot me a line.
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Mikael
Member

Posts: 206


« Reply #14 on: May 08, 2007, 06:09:47 PM »

Hey, you do give some interesting playtesting options, even for us with sharply limited face-to-face gaming time. I would be interested in running through your world events tables, and that might lead to NPC generation, who knows.

Sorry if you already covered this somewhere, but: How long do you expect it to take a character from total programmatic servitude to total freedom? How does this compare with the time it takes for the world to collapse?
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