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General Forge Forums => Independent Publishing => Topic started by: dindenver on January 10, 2012, 07:34:27 AM



Title: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: dindenver on January 10, 2012, 07:34:27 AM
So,
  I just purchased an ISBN for Steampunk Crescendo.
  Within a week it will be available for purchase.
  The questions I have is, how do I market this game?
  I have a little bit of grass roots movement from games run at local conventions.
  But, I don't know how to expand it beyond that.
  I don't have any practical knowledge of marketing, so any tips or tricks would help.


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: David Berg on January 11, 2012, 01:21:43 AM
What problem does your game solve?

For who?

(If the wording of the first question is a stumper, try "what can your game give people that they can't get elsewhere?".)

Those answers will inform how you strategize to reach and communicate with your audience.


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: dindenver on January 11, 2012, 02:20:48 PM
So, here is my elevator pitch.
  I wanted a game where playing a vampire did not have to have so many XP before you could have certain powers. So, I wrote one. I set it in a steampunk era with a heavy emphasis on the 'punk. Finally, I added magic and superscience to give non-vampires a chance. The characters are mechanically able to change the world and progress towards that change is player driven.

  There are a ton of other cool features, mechanics and aspects to the game I want to talk about, but I don't know which ones matter to anyone but me...


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: dindenver on January 11, 2012, 03:00:20 PM
Dave, I realized I didn't answer your questions, sorry.
What problem does your game solve?
 - Player driven Character goals.
 - Character advancement without the need to level up or accrue XPs..
 - Using tactics without the need for a map.
 - Effective collaborative play that also supports separating from the group.

For who?
 - The GM has many tools to easily adapt to ever-changing play.
 - The GM and Players have a system that bypasses needless conflicts.
 - The players have the ability to set a goal, achieve the goal at their own pace and change the setting in a manner that matters to them.

What can your game give people that they can't get elsewhere?
 - Vampires, magic, superscience and dystopia all in the same game (and possibly all in the same PC).

  So, I discovered a while ago that I generally buy games based on their setting and I reject games based on their mechanics. But, I feel like that is unusual to me. Whenever I try and discuss cool setting elements with other players, they don't seem interested. and when ever I warn people against certain mechanics, I get not interest either. So, I am not sure what an effective approach could/should be.


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: David Berg on January 11, 2012, 05:39:25 PM
That looks like some good info to work with.  I have some ideas but let me refine a little first.

Are you familiar with Rifts and/or Shadowrun?  How is your combo of vampires-magic-superscience-dystopia different than in those games?

- Character advancement without the need to level up or accrue XPs..
 - Using tactics without the need for a map.
 - The GM and Players have a system that bypasses needless conflicts.
I'd try to frame these as positives rather than negatives.  Please tell me if this is accurate:
- Characters advance in immediate response to the events of play
- Combat includes complex tactics but models positioning in a quick and easy way
- Player vs GM conflicts are resolved to mutual satisfaction using a simple system

Questions:

- Effective collaborative play that also supports separating from the group.

Does this mean "the game's meant to be a team game, but if someone wanders off, I have some notes on spotlight time" or is it TRULY dual-mode?  If the former, okay, fine, probably not a major selling point... but if the latter, that's pretty damn sweet.

- change the setting in a manner that matters to them

Awesome!  Which hat am I wearing?  The Authorial Inventor of Setting Facts hat, or the Character Whose Actions Have Great Consequences hat?

- The GM has many tools to easily adapt to ever-changing play.

Adapt and survive or adapt and thrive?  What are the GM powers and responsibilities that your tools specifically assist?  I'm guessing situation-creation, but that's just a guess.

What I'm trying to do here is to bridge the gap between making a claim and supporting it.  No audience can never get proof from a pitch, but if you get an idea of how someone went about what they claim to have achieved, then you can start to envision it and compare it to other games you've played.

Also, quick logistics question: I take it there's 1 GM, but how many players, what age range, how many sessions of what length?


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: dindenver on January 18, 2012, 03:32:55 PM
OK,
  So the poor wording of the posts above simply reflect an active avoidance of RPG cliches (e.g., "you can do anything in this game!")
  I think the only way I can help provide the correct info is to break the game down, is that ok?
1) Setting
  The setting is totally punk. And by punk I mean dystopic. It is up to the GM to make it depressing, but it gives you the tools to see how bad the world can be in this era
2) Chargen
  OK, so it is point-buy with a lifepath. Generally, players get the character they are looking to make. The lifepath system is a great way to get the players' character ideas into the context of the setting without requiring them to master the setting.
  Also, there are three stats, all three are used in every roll of a conflict (more on that later).
3) GM Tools
  So, I start by telling everyone not to make a character until the brainstorming/pitch is agreed on.
  Also, I have pre-built generic Antagonists, pre-built notable antagonists (though they aren't signature characters) and rules to build an Antagonist that can take on the whole group singly.
4) Conflict
  So, you can't start a conflict unless both players agree that hey want different things from the conflict
  You use the same rules, regardless of the type of conflict (fight, contest, argument, etc.).
  Also, each side declares their Intentions before the dice are rolled. And if they are defeated, that alone is what they lose (they get a penalty to their next roll(s) depending on how bad they were defeated, but they can immediately enter another conflict if a suitable one is available).
  A character can't die because of a lucky roll. Character Death has to be a stated Intention.
  So, each time players roll, they declare their action type, follow the rules of it and then roll three dice. After the roll is made, one is assigned to Ambition, one to Cunning and one to Vigilance. Both the attacker and defender do this. there is no initiative system, but if it is PC vs NPC, the GM declares which of their dice are assigned before the player(s).
  So, the character's Ambition Stat, the die they assigned to Ambition and any modifiers from their Action Type (there are not other modifiers except those generated by the player-chosen Action Type) get added up and compared against their opponent's total. The difference between the values are Progress points you accumulate towards getting your Intention. Then in a similar way, you compare Cunning to Vigilance and Vigilance to Cunning to determine how much damage each character takes.
  So, it is a race mechanic where you want to either get your Intention Target Number in Progress Points before you take enough damage to defeat you or do enough damage to your opponent before they get enough Progress Points to get their Intention.
  From a single character's perspective, they could end up with either of the following outcomes from a single conflict:
a) Battered and defeated
b) Untouched and defeated
c) Getting their goal through physical or emotional violence and being bruised and battered themselves
d) Getting their goal through physical or emotional violence and coming out unscathed
e) Getting their goal without the need for violence and getting abused for their effort
f) Getting their goal without the need for violence and coming out unscathed
  The Chargen, Action Type and Die assignments all feed pretty much equally into either of these results.
  But there are no maps or minis, not even optional rules for them. The character sheets are designed so that when you put a Protagonist and Antagonist Sheets head to head the Ambition, Cunning and Vigilance stats and places for dice line up.
5) Magic
  As far as Magic is concerned, narratively, it is an accumulation of will, power and magic that changes the world, if only for a moment. Mechanically, it lets the players roll a pool of dice, assign three of them to Ambition, Cunning and Vigilance and then save that roll for later use
6) Superscience
  The rule is you take something that you can build with Victorian Era technology and then add something that is still only available in a Victorian Era but is not possible with that technology (e.g., adding a Howitzer to a Dirigible). Mechanically, it gives you a number of re-rolls you can use after the dice are rolled.
7) Vampire powers. So, I setup Vampire Powers to work like Cyberware in CP2020/ShadowRun. There is not limit to how much you can take, they come with a penalty, but you have a good idea what they penalty is before you take it (in fact, the player picks their Vampire Weakness the same time they pick their Power, and the only limit is they have to be the same power level). Typically, Vampire Powers are unbalancing, but the weaknesses are balance that out a little once the players discover them. Also players can, at any time, elect to get Vampire Powers (Even in mid-conflict, there is notother advancement cost associated with gaining Vampire Powers).

  Typically, in play, you end up with about 1/3rd of the players vamping out and the rest being more heroic. I have only seen two vampires actually embrace evil, the rest just did it for the coolness factor.

  Vampires have to feed on human blood. How often depends on their alignment score (which they can change in and out of conflict through their actions). If they fail to they take die roll penalties (using the same system as if you were injured).

7) Alignment
  Alignment is a number (it goes from -3 to +3) and you can change it based on your actions in and out of conflict. There is a Code of the Magi listed on the back of the book (and on the character sheets) that defines what good is. There is a tiny bit of room for interpretation, but it is mostly black and white. Alignment can be used as a modifier in a conflict if you pick the right Action Type.

8) Goal
  When you make your character, you assign them a goal and a drawback. The drawback is thematic (not a weakness, just something that prevents you from attaining your goal). Goal is rated from -3 to +3 as well. When you get +4, you get your goal, then you have to have a scene showing your character getting their goal and then you set a new goal and drawback and start at 0. The book encourages you to pick a Goal that changes the  world in a way that is meaningful to your character. I have seen a driven character attain their goal in a single 4 hour session. And many characters that forgot to set advancing their Goal as aprt of their Intention and made no progress at all.
  Mechanically, Both Drawback and Goal can be used to get bonuses if you pick the right Action Type in a Conflict.

  These are the major features in plain language. I probably can't get too many people to read all that before they buy the book, so how do I break this down into compelling marketing?


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: David Berg on January 18, 2012, 04:02:13 PM
How do you make positive or negative progress along the Goal meter?


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: dindenver on January 18, 2012, 05:37:54 PM
It is an action type, one uses your drawback as a bonus, and increases your goal. The other uses your goal as a bonus and increases your drawback. You can do this in and outside of conflicts.


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: David Berg on January 18, 2012, 07:16:44 PM
What controls how often you can do this?

I'm trying to connect the dots between "come up with a way in which you want to change the setting" and "make it so".  I assume you do that by (1) creating a character who wants to change the world, (2) writing a world-changing Goal, (3) making attempts in pursuit of that Goal, and (4) succeeding at those attempts.  Correct?  If so, Step 3 is the only one I'm unclear on.


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: dindenver on January 19, 2012, 06:43:11 AM
That's a good summary.
Step 3 is easy to summarize:
In a non-conflict scene, you get to declare an action type that your character is using to solve the issue. One of them lets you indulge in your drawback and your drawback goes up and your goal goes down. Another lets you work towards your goal and your goal goes up and your drawback goes down.
In a conflict, you pick an action type each turn of the conflict. The conflict rules include two similar action types for conflicts as well.
  In both cases the player declares the action type they are using. You can advance your goal even if you lose the conflict.
  That's what I was trying to say with "player driven character goals." It is a concise summary, but rather vague...
  Any advice on how to spruce that up?


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: David Berg on January 19, 2012, 02:45:09 PM
Oh, you don't need to succeed to make Goal progress, and you can lose Goal progress?  Hmm.  Well, tell me this, from your experience playing it, how do players tend to feel about their world-changing Goals? 

Do they feel like they need to strategize or otherwise "play well" in order to earn those Goals?  Is simply completing a Goal a challenge, and an achievement to be proud of?

Or it is a matter of "I'll get my Goal whenever I want to after my 4th turn" and the challenge is to work that Goal into the fiction in a satisfying way?

Is it "see if you can" or "see if you can make it awesome" (or "see how awesome you can make it")?  Or "see how little Drawback you can accrue while achieving your Goal", or something else?

I'd pitch these differently from each other.


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: dindenver on January 19, 2012, 03:16:24 PM
  So, it really is player driven. I had one player who wanted to hit their Goal on all cylinders, but didn't read the character sheet, the rules or ask me how. They struggled pretty badly. I had another player get it and march incessantly (even taking penalties to short term Intentions) to get their Goal (And they did it too).
  Typically though, about 1/2 of the players or so go after their goal at all, with about 2/3rds of them accomplishing at least one Goal before the games ends (whether campaign or one shot).
  The value of decreasing Goal and Gaining Drawback is that you can then use Drawback to give yourself a bonus.
  There is nothing the GM can do to stop or force players towards their Goal. Verbal encouragement is there, but there are no mechanics behind it. Even if the GM says "If you complete your Goal the game is over because my ideas all revolve around it being unaccomplished," there is nothing the GM can do to prevent the player from actually getting their Goal mechanically.
  I included rules for changing your goal, but I was never able to see a player use that in practice. I wonder if that was better advertised in the rules, if more players would pursue their Goals after they got to know their character better?
  Generally in play, it is a creative process, how to figure out what the next step is and how to integrate that into what is happening at the table. I have seen some Goals bring the awesome while others were just Cool stuff that happened. Both versions are equally satisfying to me.


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: David Berg on January 19, 2012, 10:18:36 PM
I'd previously parsed "player driven Goals" as "players do take the initiative", not "players might take the initiative".  If only half of them are really going for a Goal, then I guess "play is about going for your Goal" is not part of your pitch to new players, eh?  Is it more like, "react to the GM's situation, and oh if you feel like going for a Goal you can do that too"?

I feel like I understand the list of things this game does, but I'm having trouble seeing which ones compromise the biggest incentives in play and thus the key selling points.  So that's what I'm trying to tease out here.  Sorry for the barrage of questions.


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: dindenver on January 20, 2012, 07:35:50 AM
I love answering questions, barrage away.
So, the players set the scenes most of the time. It is definitely not about the players reacting to the GM. Basically, all of the players, including the GM, take turns settings scenes.
Setting a Goal is part of the character creation process. I think the players that didn't go for their goals represent passive players, players with a creative block and players that just didn't understand the rules.

  Oh, if I describe the first session, this will all gel better:
1) Players brainstorm what they like/don't like about steampunk, Victorian, vampires, magic and gadgets.
2) The GM is selected from the players
3) The GM comes up with the idea for an Antagonist and describes to the players what that Antagonist is doing right now (the GM has to describe what the players know about what actions the Antagonist is doing, but not necessarily their Goals, hidden or otherwise).
4) Players make characters that are opposed to that Antagonist
5) GM creates the Antagonist character with the current PCs in mind.
6) One of the players set the first scene.

  Generally, this setup makes for cohesive PC groups, cohesive PC activities/story and fun adventures.

So, what problems does this solve:
1) PCs can't really affect the setting
2) Lucky rolls can break the game
3) One Stat/Skill to rule them all
4) PCs that are not united against any common enemy
5) Accomplishing big/small goals without violence
6) Powering up without leveling up
7) No moral grey areas
8) No focus on equipment/gear

  These are stated negatively, and I am not sure how to re-phrase these with a positive tone without falling back on RPG cliches...


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: David Berg on January 23, 2012, 12:42:59 AM
Do you have a specific intent regarding the relationship between PC Goals and the PC-Antagonist conflict?  Is "to defeat the Antagonist" a perfect Goal or a horrible one?

If I was playing:
(a) Am I probably going to have to choose, at any given moment, whether to pursue my Goal or my fight vs the Antagonist? 
(b) Or will I be simultaneously be doing both? 
(c) Or is it my choice whether I wind up with (a) or (b)?  (And if so, what should guide my choice on the matter?)

I think the players that didn't go for their goals represent passive players, players with a creative block and players that just didn't understand the rules.

Okay, gotcha.  I'll assume your target audience is active, creative players, then.

So, what problems does this solve:

This illustrates to me that I phrased my earlier question poorly.  What I meant by "What problem does your game solve?" was not about comparison to any old flaws of any old games.  I more meant, that if anyone's going to buy Steampunk Crescendo, there must be something that they want that they can't currently get out of any other game on the market.  Let's assume they've played every RPG ever.  They've already seen good techniques for solving some of the specific problems you solve.  They're not just looking for a game that meets a disparate 12-point checklist.  They're looking to scratch a more singular itch, like "rules-lite supernatural horror with superpowers" or "dystopia-ending heroic action".  I think you've got to catch their attention first with that, and then you can tell them about the fuller list of features.

So when asked about solving a problem, what I had in mind was something like: "All current dystopian RPGs are either highly person emo drama or tactical skirmish simulators.  Anyone who wants to really fight the struggle and win doesn't have a system to support them.  Well, now they do!"  You know?  What's the niche and desire that's out there going unfulfilled, that Steampunk Crescendo is here to satisfy?

If that's all too abstract, I guess you could just pick your personal favorite aspects of the game, guess which three will appeal to the most players, and paste 'em together in a sentence.


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: dindenver on January 25, 2012, 01:39:14 PM
Dave,
Is "to defeat the Antagonist" a perfect Goal or a horrible one?
  I don't want to say it is a horrible one, but it would be pretty bad, because a Goal needs to take at least 4 steps to accomplish and an Antagonist can be defeated in one step.

Am I probably going to have to choose, at any given moment, whether to pursue my Goal or my fight vs the Antagonist?
  Players are able to pursue the Antagonist, their Goal or both at their discretion. The only limiting factor might be the particulars of the scene they are in. but that is merely a limit of how creative you can be, not a mechanical or social contract one.

What problem does your game solve?
  Well, this is the problem, I know what it solves, but I don't know how to describe it without sounding like every RPG designer ever.
  This game lets you gain power without leveling up, it lets you change the setting in a way that matters to you and it provides a real 'punk dystopic setting to do it all in. You can redeem yourself, your antagonist or even the whole world.
  Does that sound good? How can I punch it up or open it up to a wider audience, or make my audience notice it among the sea of other RPGs?


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: Dan Maruschak on January 25, 2012, 04:05:38 PM
it lets you change the setting in a way that matters to you and it provides a real 'punk dystopic setting to do it all in. You can redeem yourself, your antagonist or even the whole world.
Dave, I don't know that this will be helpful to you or not, but this strikes me as a contradiction. If the world is fixable it's not a dystopia, is it? The combination of the gonzo "dirigibles with howitzers" stuff with the broody stuff is hard for me to wrap my head around, too. (This is part of the reason I was turned off from your game way back during the game chef playtest: I thought it was about morally conflicted people being crushed under the boot of society, but in play it seemed like you were most excited about an experience like the Van Helsing movie that had none of the elements that I thought were supposed to be interesting in the game).


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: David Berg on January 25, 2012, 06:46:12 PM
Players are able to pursue the Antagonist, their Goal or both at their discretion. The only limiting factor might be the particulars of the scene they are in. but that is merely a limit of how creative you can be, not a mechanical or social contract one.

Huh.  Well, then, I must admit that I'm confused by the AP experiences you report.  I figured maybe folks were whiffing on Goal-seeking because going after an Antagonist was easier or more fun or something.  I was wondering if perhaps "design your character to crush a specific enemy, then go out and do that" was a huge part of the game.  I mean, that sounds fun to me, and fairly unique (Misspent Youth sorta does that, but in a different way).

This isn't a Game Development thread, and you didn't list the Antagonist factor among the stuff that's most important to you, so I'll move on.  Just wanted to toss it out, though.

This game lets you gain power without leveling up, it lets you change the setting in a way that matters to you and it provides a real 'punk dystopic setting to do it all in. You can redeem yourself, your antagonist or even the whole world.

Hey, I like that!  Except for the "without leveling up" part. 

I think this describes both the fictional content and the activities of play in a pretty appealing fashion:  "Gain power and bring meaningful change to a punk dystopia!  Will you redeem yourself, your antagonist, or the whole world?"

The next thing I personally would want to know is something about system and social form.  Lite/crunchy, cooperative/competitive, make stuff up/problem-solve, etc.  What skills are demanded of me, and how will I be relating to my fellow players?

Then logistics: duration, number of players, age.

Depending on the answers to these, they could be folded together into a single pitch or presented separately.  I'm not really sure what's ideal on that front.  "A creative, collaborative roleplaying game.  3-6 players.  2-4 hours." -- that might cover it.  But if you have something more interesting to highlight about the gameplay, that might be preferable.

Do I work together with my fellow players to change the dystopia, or do we just take turns pursuing individual changes separately?

What do I have to be good at in order to do well at this game?  Math?  Strategy?  Acting?  Authoring?  Convincing?  Humor?  Listening?

The more distinctive the answers, the better!  If it's just "you have to have a decent imagination and be able to portray a character" then that can go down in the hierarchy.

So, here's a stab at it:

Steampunk Crescendo
Future nightmare or better tomorrow?
Gain power and bring meaningful change to a punk dystopia!  In a land of vampires, magic, and super-science, to what will you aspire?  Will you redeem yourself, your antagonist, or the whole world?
Collaboratively define the world as it is, and then author the personal quest your character will undertake to change it.
A roleplaying game for 3-6 players.  ~4 hours.
  • Quick-to-learn, quick-to-use ruleset.
  • System gracefully resolves player/GM conflicts.
  • Characters improve and change while you play.
  • Gripping stories and engaging tactical combat.

What do you think?  A step in the right direction?


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: dindenver on January 30, 2012, 10:28:40 AM
Dan,
  I appreciate the feedback. Believe it or not, your feedback was some of the most valuable to my original design.

If the world is fixable it's not a dystopia, is it?
  Typically, PC Goals have been more personally oriented and less fixing the world. Even some of the really big Goals have been about fixing a small part of the world. I saw opening Orphanages, Creating a safe enclave for vampires and wiring the Bronx for electricity as some of the biggest changes players tried to affect with their characters. I think the world is still a dystopia, even if all three of those are realized, no?

  As to the juxtaposition of Dark and Brooding setting vs. Player Empowerment. I hear you. And it was a design issue, I really struggled with. In the end, there are limits on what the PCs can do, but it is up to the group to acknowledge, use or obey those limits. When I GM'd I pretty much followed the players lead and when you played with me, out group was in a pretty over-the-top mode. Sorry if that ruined the experience for you. The reality is, it is a tough balance to allow the characters to be vampires, Mages, inventors and more (possibly all at the same time) and say, but don't get carried away. So, what I did was put tools the GM can use to create boundaries and guidelines for their players but then try not to overemphasize them so that the GM does not see that as "the game."

  I did credit you as a playtester and give you a thanks in the credits and I do mean it, your help was invaluable, thanks again Dan.


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: dindenver on January 30, 2012, 01:11:17 PM
Dave,
  Thanks for brainstorming with me, it is REALLY appreciated.

I figured maybe folks were whiffing on Goal-seeking because going after an Antagonist was easier or more fun or something.
  yeah, this is an accurate assessment, players that didn't go after their Goals were ones that either did not take initiative, or were having mroe fun doing  something else to remember their Goal.

Lite/crunchy, cooperative/competitive, make stuff up/problem-solve, etc. 
OK, I am always bad with Lite vs. Crunchy. Personally, I don't care and I have a lot of tolerance for crunch. Plus I have played some old school games that really raised the bar on what is "crunchy."
  I would say it is less crunchy than Dresden, more so than InSpectres. It would fall into a similar category as Dogs in the Vineyard in that the mechanics matter, but there is no real way to "game" them.

What skills are demanded of me, and how will I be relating to my fellow players?
  So, skills that players need:
Tactics, the way dice are used, you will either need a mind for tactics or be willing to take help from a fellow player that does. There are not maps and figures, but I have fond players that don't like "tactics" can be overwhelmed with the dice mechanics at first.
Narration, you need to be comfortable setting scenes, you will be doing that in play. And there are cases where you as a player has a lot more authorship than usual. These are rare, but if you do
Planning, you need to be able to figure out at least 4 discrete steps in your Goal if you want to pursue them.
Creativity, the scene framing and character narration is divided more evenly among players. You will need to be able to improvise based on actions taken by other players and the GM in order to tie what is happening with what you want for your character.

Duration, number of players, age:
I think 3 hours is probably the minimum to get anything out of this game. A 6 player game where each character achieves at least one Goal would take about 30 hours. As to age, I am bad at this, I know I have had 15-year olds play. There is not a lot of mature content and the math is pretty simple. Maybe 13 and up? I know this works with 3-8 players. I am not sure if it works for one-on-one. Not sure it would though.

Steampunk Crescendo
Future nightmare or better tomorrow?
Gain power and bring meaningful change to a punk dystopia!  In a land of vampires, magic, and super-science, to what will you aspire?  Will you redeem yourself, your antagonist, or the whole world?
Collaboratively define the world as it is, and then author the personal quest your character will undertake to change it.
A roleplaying game for 3-6 players.  ~4 hours.

    Quick-to-learn, quick-to-use ruleset.
    System gracefully resolves player/GM conflicts.
    Characters improve and change while you play.
    Gripping stories and engaging tactical combat.

Great start!

Maybe:
Steampunk Crescendo

Bring meaningful change to a steampunk dystopia!  In a land of vampires, magic, and super-science, to what will you aspire?  Will you redeem yourself, your antagonist, or the whole world?
The Mastermind will make an Antagonist that you and your friends will work together to defeat! What will you do?
A roleplaying game for 3-6 players.  3+ hours.

    Quick-to-learn, easy-to-use ruleset.
    Conflicts are resolved using a map-less tactical system.
    Solid and compelling setting with room for player customization.
    Characters improve and change while you play.
    Events unfold in a compelling and logical manner.

  Is that any better?


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: David Berg on January 30, 2012, 06:27:16 PM
Cool, I think this is sounding more and more like a decent pitch.


Here's a question, pertinent to both your last comments and your proposed blurb:

What's the interaction between "I pursue my character's quest to change this part of the world" and "I work together with my friends to defeat an Antagonist"?

Do I take turns doing one and then the other?  Are the two one and the same?  Might I wind up doing only one, and not doing the other?

I tend to like pitches that sound unified.  Lists of disparate features leave me worried about coherence.  But that might just be me.


Separate question: if I spend those 3+ hours, does that mean I've had one satisfying session out of many, or that the game's over?


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: dindenver on January 30, 2012, 09:38:39 PM
What's the interaction between "I pursue my character's quest to change this part of the world" and "I work together with my friends to defeat an Antagonist"?
Characters can experience nine basic outcomes:
1) Character achieves their Goal and defeats the Antagonist
2) Character achieves their Goal and does not affect the Antagonist
3) Character achieves their Goal and is defeated by the Antagonist
4) Character does not interact with their Goal and defeats the Antagonist
5) Character does not interact with their Goal and does not affect the Antagonist
6) Character does not interact with their Goal and is defeated by the Antagonist
7) Character indulges their Drawback and defeats the Antagonist
8) Character indulges their Drawback and does not affect the Antagonist
9) Character indulges their Drawback and is defeated by the Antagonist
  The significance of this is, the Player decides. There are mechanical benefits to pursuing your Goal and their are mechanical benefits to pursuing your Drawback. But apart from that, each player decides for themselves which is more fun for them and they can pursue it without any constraint or restraint. Like InSpectres, this is a game where you can't railroad the players, even if you try (this isn't a challenge to precocious players, just a design goal I think I met)...

If I spend those 3+ hours, does that mean I've had one satisfying session out of many, or that the game's over?
So, in a single 3 hour session, you can see on average one player achieve their goal and the group will face at least one major antagonist. It took about 30 hours of play to get a group of 6 players enough scenes for each of them to achieve at least one Goal. We could have continued on, but Dresden was just released, so we played that instead. I've had about 30 different people play it. There were about two people who had real issues with the system and maybe 5 or so who were underwhelmed. The rest had fun and I even had people seek me out for additional sessions after their initial session.
For me the goal was to design a game where the GM was encouraged to say "Yes" and then give them tools to deal with the consequences of that. That is part of the reason why the player picks their own goal and they get a goal tracker. With the player determining if heir actions work towards their Goal and with a set number of steps, it becomes a clear guide to players and the GM where the player is on the race to their goal. This is something a lot of games do not do very well. It was a major part of my design goal to give the players and GM a facility to know what was an acceptable Goal and what was an acceptable number of steps to get there, And then I gave the players who would deny themselves their Goal a bonus for wallowing in their Drawback. It is an interesting and fun dynamic.
On top of that the dice mechanic is fun and challenging and the setting is inspiring.
  Is that a better picture? I feel like I am doing a horrible job of explaining my game (hence the request for marketing help).


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: David Berg on January 30, 2012, 11:24:44 PM
Goals/Antagonists

It sounds like a short but accurate answer about how Goal-seeking and Antagonist-thwarting relate would be:

"The game provides no specific relationship between these activities, but does allow you a fair amount of choice in how they intersect for you."

Correct?

I'd want to know that pretty soon after reading pitch blurbs about both features.


Session/game length

Alas, telling me "1 goal per 3 hrs, 6 goals per 30 hrs" doesn't help me. 

Let's say I sit down to play for 4 hours.  What are my most likely outcomes?

Antagonist: by "face" do you mean "resolve (e.g. defeat)" or just "encounter"?

Goal: Suppose I am actually pursuing my Goal.  Am I most likely to come close, make no progress, get halfway there, or achieve it?  If I'm 1 of 4 players does that mean I have a 1 in 4 chance of achieving it?

Is it expected that at the end of those 4 hours I will be in a satisfying place to stop, and will want to start from scratch with a new character the next time I play this game?  Or is it expected that I'll be mid-mission or mid-story and will be disappointed if I don't get another 5 sessions to finish what I've set out to do?


Goals optional

You've pointed out that wallowing in your Drawback is a viable alternative to pursuing your Goal (that should go somewhere in the pitch!).  I assumed that playing up the Drawback was a means to an end, which I guess would have to be thwarting your Antagonist (or is there another end I'm missing?).  But your outcomes #8 and #9 make me unsure.  If they're both just failed attempts at #7, then cool, I understand the risk that things might not work out. 

But if wallowing in your Drawback and not affecting your Antagonist is, like, something a player might want to do, then I'm not getting any sense of a unified appeal for this game.  If I can play it to wallow and fail and ignore Antagonists and indulge in dystopian superscience, and my buddy can power up and be awesome and achieve goals and defeat Antagonists and change the world with magic, what's tying us together at the table? 

Is some of the stuff you're describing as player-driven actually group-driven?  So my buddy and I would not be playing so oppositely at the same table? 

Or are we simply expected to enjoy inhabiting the same world and engaging with the same mechanics?


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: dindenver on January 31, 2012, 12:23:00 AM
"The game provides no specific relationship between these activities, but does allow you a fair amount of choice in how they intersect for you."
Correct?
Well, this is what I mean by player-driven Goals. If a player cares about it, the mechanics enables them to do this in a way that is transparent to them, the other players and the GM. If they don't care, the mechanics don't force them along a track.

Let's say I sit down to play for 4 hours.  What are my most likely outcomes?
  I have run a ton of Convention games. all of them with 4-hour time slots. consistently, the players get to a good end point. about 50% of the time one player is even able to accomplish their Goal. There is time enough for character relationships to build, exploration to happen, one or two small conflicts and one final showdown. I have played long term campaigns and they work well and allow other players to take advantage of the Goal system at their own pace.

Antagonist: by "face" do you mean "resolve (e.g. defeat)" or just "encounter"? I mean a full blown conflict with a satisfying result.

Goal: Suppose I am actually pursuing my Goal.  Am I most likely to come close, make no progress, get halfway there, or achieve it?  If I'm 1 of 4 players does that mean I have a 1 in 4 chance of achieving it?
OK, technically every player in the group could achieve their Goal in about 5-6 scenes (easily accomplished in 2-3 hours). But that would depend on every player pushing for their Goal equally hard. Basically, the way it works is, when you perform an Action, you have to declare an Action Type (sort of like Moves in Apocalypse World I think). One of the Action Types available is "Inspired Act" and it lets you advance your Goal marker one slot (in a conflict you take a penalty to your current action equal to your current Goal level). Do this 4 times and your Goal is complete. At which point Goal is set to 0 and your character selects a new Goal and Drawback.

Is it expected that at the end of those 4 hours I will be in a satisfying place to stop, and will want to start from scratch with a new character the next time I play this game?  Or is it expected that I'll be mid-mission or mid-story and will be disappointed if I don't get another 5 sessions to finish what I've set out to do?
  Wow, are those my only choices?   lol
  So, after 4 hours, you can easily continue with the same character. A decent story arc should be completely resolved, but there should be plenty for the party to do if they chose to. But if the game were to end then, it would not leave that unsatisfied feeling behind.

You've pointed out that wallowing in your Drawback is a viable alternative to pursuing your Goal (that should go somewhere in the pitch!).
  OK, when you create your character (Remember, you don't do this until after the GM has announced who the first Antagonist is and what the rumor is that they are doing), you select a Goal and a Drawback. The Guidelines for something like this, "Pick a Goal that you can actually accomplish (world peace is right out), but that would require multiple steps to accomplish (crossing the street or defeating a vampire are out as well since these can be done in one step). Then select a Drawback, it should be something desirable and beneficial to your character that the pursuit of which would hinder you Goal. A great Actual Play example was a character that wanted to build a new hospital in the Bronx, his drawback was he was too charitable. Meaning if he indulged his charitable side, he wouldn't have enough money to build a hospital and if he saved money to build a hospital, he couldn't spend it on charities. Mechanically, the difference between them are that whenever one increases, the other decreases. Either can be used for a bonus during an Action with the correct Action type, but Goal Resets it all to 0 when you hit +4, while Drawback bottoms out at +3, never resetting except through player efforts. So, the advantage of wallowing in your Drawback is you have this Bonus you can call on any time and all you have to do is do something you already wanted to do (but thwarts your Goal).

Is some of the stuff you're describing as player-driven actually group-driven? Or are we simply expected to enjoy inhabiting the same world and engaging with the same mechanics?
OK, so before characters are made, players discuss different elements of the established Setting and figure out what they are in the mood for as a group. Then the GM is selected and they introduce the first Antagonist (as well as a good idea of what plots/schemes the Antagonist is up to).
Then the Players make characters that are opposed to that Antagonist.
Then the GM adjusts the Antagonist (or adds additional Antagonists to the mix) to suit the final characters.
Then players take turns settings scenes.
No player can set a second scene until the GM gets a chance to set their first one.
The GM can't set a scene until all of the players have had a turn setting a scene (this gives the players a chance to research magic or inventions or otherwise use their resources to prepare for trouble).
This keeps going until the session ends. Typically, the GM uses their NPCs to set the stage for conflict during the player scenes and then sets up a big conflict on their scene (if it is an appropriate time). GMs can add more Antagonists at any time without the need to announce what they are up to or who they are even. Once the GM is selected, everything after that is initiated by a single player (although other players can join in if they think they can help/do something interesting).

So, during the brainstorming phase, players get a chance to let everyone know what they are looking forward to being able to do. During the GM/Antagonist phase the players get to know what direction the GM is taking so that the players can make a cohesive group if they want. Once that first Antagonist is under their collective belts, then the comradery/trust is built between the characters and the players and the direction of the game is established and new Antagonists can be a pleasant surprise.

  Does that make sense? I am really not sure where I am losing you (that's why my posts are getting longer and longer, lol), sorry.


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: David Berg on January 31, 2012, 10:37:32 AM
Hey, if we defeat the Antagonist in session 1, will there be a new one in session 2?

Quote
"The game provides no specific relationship between these activities, but does allow you a fair amount of choice in how they intersect for you."
Correct?
Well, this is what I mean by player-driven Goals. If a player cares about it, the mechanics enables them to do this in a way that is transparent to them, the other players and the GM. If they don't care, the mechanics don't force them along a track.

By "these activities" I meant Goal-seeking and Antagonist-thwarting.  I get that the Goals are player-driven, I'm just wondering if the player's choice is "Goal or Antagonist"... as opposed to, say, "Goal and Antagonist".  So, am I correct that, for that specific issue, there is "a fair amount of choice"? 

I'm not saying "total freedom" because the GM and the rest of the group may do things to the Antagonist that impacts the relationship between the Antagonist and a given Goal.

As for the overall description of the game, it's starting to sound more like Antagonist-thwarting tends to operate on the per-session unit as an immediate objective which is satisfying to complete in 3-4 hours, while Goal-pursuing tends to be less urgent and tends to operate on the multi-session level with no one upset if they don't complete a Goal in a given session.  That seems to fit with your play experiences, right?

I'm thinking that if I got together to play this game with my friends, and we scheduled 2 or more sessions, I might invest more heavily in my Goal, and view session 1's Antagonist showdown as a big event, but not the climax of my story.  I'd be thinking about changing the world via getting my Goal, and fighting this Antagonist is something I may or may not need to do along the way.

On the other hand, if my friends and I scheduled this strictly as a 1-shot game, I would approach it differently.  I might go really hard after my Goal at the expense of all else in hopes that I had time to reach it before we had to stop play.  But more likely, I'd treat Goal-pursuit as a side issue and Antagonist-thwarting as the main event, which would culminate in the climax of the game, wherein my friends and I succeed or fail at defeating our foe.

Other attitudes are of course possible, but these seem obvious and thus fairly likely.  Are they consistent with your play experiences?

If I have this right, then the pitch must be changed!  Something like "Focus on defeating a mutual Antagonist in a single session, pursue world-changing Goals across multiple sessions, or pick a spot in between!"


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: dindenver on February 01, 2012, 03:36:42 PM
Hey, if we defeat the Antagonist in session 1, will there be a new one in session 2?
So, the trick is, the GM announces the identity and rumors of one antagonist before the characters are made. But the GM is able to create as many Antagonists as needed. The last one shot I ran featured a gang of six antagonists (A Lister Crowley and 5 members of his inner circle).

So, am I correct that, for that specific issue, there is a fair amount of choice?
Yes, the only limit on your ability to pursue both simultaneously, is your creativity (meaning, can you think of a course of action that fits both requirements).

That seems to fit with your play experiences, right?
Yes, it is much easier to hit the mark on taking out the Antagonist in a single session and more time is usually required to hit your Goal.


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: David Berg on February 01, 2012, 07:01:36 PM
Latest idea; may not be concise enough, but I think the presentation of the game is more accurate:

Steampunk Crescendo
Will you redeem yourself, your enemy, or your world?

In a dystopian future of vampires, magic, and super-science, you face three challenges, three opportunities.  Will you join with your friends to oppose the Antagonist controlled by the game's Mastermind?  Will you indulge in the Drawback that defines who you've been?  Or will you push on to achieve your Goal, and in so doing, bring meaningful change to your world?

The Goal and Drawback are always at odds.  As you proceed toward the session's climactic confrontation with your Antagonist, which will you pursue, and how hard?  How much bang you get for each scene is limited only by your own creativity.


A roleplaying game for 3-6 players.  3+ hours, one or multiple sessions.

    Quick-to-learn, easy-to-use ruleset.
    Conflicts are resolved using a map-less tactical system.
    Solid and compelling setting with room for group customization.
    Characters improve and change while you play.


Two things that may not deserve to be emphasized:

"Redeem" -- That's just an example, right?  Redemption doesn't have to factor in at all, does it?  If it does, great, but if it's optional, change the tagline.

"Map-less" -- If this game is very similar to the classic map-based skirmish game (e.g. Warhammer 40k) and the main difference is "no map", then cool, your wording works.  But if that's not the case, then I'd sub in another adjective to distinguish what defines your tactical system.  What's unique about it, at least in the context of dystopian punk RPGs?

And, one thing I made up -- "defines who you've been".  Sub in whatever it is about a Drawback that actually compels players to wallow in them (fictionally, I mean).


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: David Berg on February 01, 2012, 07:11:58 PM
I may be burning out on pitch-crafting, so let me jump ahead and say that the next things I'd advise would be:

1) envision who'd want to play this game, and write down as much about them as you can
2) look at that, and take your best guess as to where they hang out, and where they'd be receptive to hearing about this game
3) go there and tell them about it
4) assume that a lot of people will be willing to give it a glance, but not buy instantly; have something cool, free, and inspiring to show them during that glance (e.g. badass web page with book excerpts)
5) make it easy for them to buy if they decide to; have your PayPal button (or whatever) set up

I wrote that in conceptual order.  Chronologically, obviously you need to do #4 and #5 before #3.

I can help you brainstorm #1 and #2 if you want, but it'll be all guesses on my part.  I'm not particularly plugged into the marketplace or anything.


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: dindenver on February 01, 2012, 09:33:56 PM
Dave,
  Looks pretty good.

But if that's not the case, then I'd sub in another adjective to distinguish what defines your tactical system.
So, there is no need for maps or figs. But there is a need for tactics. Every time you roll, you roll three dice: one to get your scene stakes, one to overcome your opponent and one to defend against your opponent. You decide AFTER the dice are rolled, so there are real strategy and tactics that go into how those dice are played.
  What is a better way to say that than mapless? I am sure there is one, I just haven't thought of it yet...


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: David Berg on February 01, 2012, 10:29:11 PM
"Use strategic dice-bidding to resolve conflicts"? 

"Bidding" isn't the perfect term... it might be close enough... but maybe you can come up with a better one...


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on February 04, 2012, 04:25:11 AM
Dave, David - you have a really good dialogue going here, don't let me derail. I'll just take a stab at the marketing question from a different side.

You see, my own experience in marketing and being marketed to, game-wise, is that there are vast gulfs of experience and terminology between people, and these gulfs ruin most attempts at communication. This is why generic spiels have never sold me on a game. Never. There simply doesn't appear to be a set of buzz-words you can string together to make me interested. One would think that a Forgista like me would jump on anything that reads "It's got conflict resolution", but in truth that's old hat to me. My experiences selling games to others have been similar in that I do develop spiels for various games over time, but whether they strike home on a person is totally hit or miss: I've sold Zombie Cinema for several years now, for example, and I've practically decided to just shut up and show how the game runs because neither technical nor thematic exposition seems to be a good predictor for whether a given person would be interested in the game. Some people are excited about the Romero zombie thing but hate the mechanics (expecting a more traditional experience, I imagine), while some are lukewarm on both the zombies and Forgista philosophy until they see the game and realize that it's shallow structured freeform, at which point they fall in love with it, and yet others come in excited about seeing my Forge game (people who know me from the 'net, I mean) and go away disappointed at how simple the game is. Talking is a waste of time, I have to show the game to a person to gauge whether they get it or not. There are words for the thing that sells the game to people or not (stuctured freeform with drama arc, conflict resolution and GM-full shared storytelling), but the customer doesn't know these words, so what's the use?

Looking at it as a customer, the spiels that would work for me would be about cultural context - or namedropping, to be more exact. Tell me that this game is by a published Forge author or other designer whose work I've accepted in the past, say, and I'll check it out as a matter of principle. Tell me that Ron Edwards consulted on the development. Tell me that you decided to make a game that nails my favourite TV show, and I might go for it - I don't like traditional design, so I've gotten disappointed often by this sort of argument.

However, what I'm getting at here is that after reading Dave's descriptions of what his game is like, I'd like to share my impression: what I heard here will totally sell me if the punk part is genuine. I would still check it out in a bit more detail even if it's just WW-style posing, but if there's real punk in there (meaning anger, frustration, desperation and clear opportunity for political stances in the fictional context, and consequences for the same), then it's an immediate sale.

What makes me react this way are the following three points which jumped at me while skimming your dialogue:
  • You can take however many vampire powers you want, but each comes with increasing vampiric drawbacks. That's cool, I could go places with that as desperation drives vampirism and ultimately grid-locks the poor vampire into the box where the Hunter operates.
  • Players choose between going for the Goal or the Antagonist. I don't know what this means in detail, but it sounds cool - I could make the game that does tricks with that. I expect that it'd be fun to GM the game if you have a thing with antagonists going, like they're predeveloped or whatever, and the mechanics protect their dramatic position a bit, and they get to crush the dreams of the PCs. Also, these two points together paint me a picture of modern, considered design, which is important to me because nothing kills my interest as quickly as indications that a game's been constructed within the traditional echo chamber.
  • Is it real punk? Dave's talking like it is, but there's gnawing doubt - roleplayers don't understand punk, they give me pussy poseurs in street clothing, and their games are all about doing some commando hits for the Ancilla instead of politized desperation of the working class.

Looking at the message I got here, what we need to think about is whether the above is idiosyncratic to me, or whether I'm representing some market demography here. Also, whether the game can pay off on my expectations, as it doesn't make sense to sell me the game if it's going to disappoint me - better to work on the people who'll like the game and give it good buzz. Once you've figured out my demographic inclinations and where more people like me hang out, you can just go post that list of selling points for those people: tell them that your game has the things that sold me on it, and you'll hook them as well.

More generally, don't just move on my impression: run your spiel and your game by other people and do some focus group research; find out what makes people burn on your game. Outright ignore the ones who don't seem at all interested; they're not in your target audience. But the ones who read stuff about your game or read your whole game and get that excited reaction I got, those - find out what hooked them. Get them to make a list like I did above. Figure out whether you have multiple target demographics, perhaps there are different people liking your game for different reasons. Perhaps there is just one audience and I'm an exemplar of that. Either way, once you have your focus grouping done, you can develop intelligent marketing for that specific audience.

As a closing, I'd like to say that while I have a good handle on marketing theory, I never could bother to do active marketing for my own games to the degree they'd deserve. So while I have some sense for the target demographics of eg. Zombie Cinema, I mostly use this data in convention marketing and in designing my website. This is because I care more about designing new games than pushing an old one; this is a common flaw in indie publishers. If you don't share this flaw, there's nothing stopping you from doing targeted net community marketing or even banner advertising and such paid spamming, once you figure out who your audience is and what needs to be said to hook them.


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: David Berg on February 04, 2012, 11:15:10 AM
Eero, suppose that Steampunk Crescendo doesn't specifically support punk (in the sense you describe -- desperate working class action with political significance), but provides some tools that you could put to good use if you bring your own punk agenda to the game and push it on your group.

If that's the case, what would you like to be told about the game?  What would get you most excited about it without being misleading?

I ask because my impression is that, while you can certainly pick a punk portion of the setting and a punk Goal and Drawback for your character, the other characters and Antagonist might be very much not punk... that is, unless you can orchestrate a group agreement of "let's do punk" during the setting-customizing phase.  (Dave, please correct me if that's inaccurate!)


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: dindenver on February 13, 2012, 12:34:03 PM
OK,
  I'll reply to Dave and Eero in a bit. When I thought this thread was ended, I started thinking about how to describe this game and then I remembered the original design goal.
I wanted to make a game where Temptation was a tangible part of play. That is why Vampire powers are so easy to get. That is what there is a moral code built into the game system. I wanted to define that temptation and shine a spot light on it. "Don't do these things, but if you do, you will become a vampire with cool powers. Oh and you will need human blood to survive..."
I am going to craft a modified version of our pitch David and post it here. Let me know what you think when you see it.


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: dindenver on February 13, 2012, 12:41:24 PM
Eero,
  To name drop, my main influences were Cyberpunk2020, Vincent's Otherkind and Joe McDonald's Point of Collapse.
  As to punk. I am not sure I can claim the punk crown. But I can say, I shot for a more sincere punk ethos. Meaning I gave the players tools to start a revolution, but gave the Establishment the same powers. It is pretty easy to setup a punk 'verse with this era. There was a lot of popularism happening and a lot of exploitation happening. That combined with the ability for bad people to coordinate or much longer distances effectively sets the stage for the perfect, you can change the world, but don't bother because the world is happy as it is type setting. Here is an excerpt from the final book:
How do I get that "punk" feel, if the characters have awesome powers, magic and superscience?
Making the game grittier by making the game more lethal to the characters or limiting the characters' ability to accomplish anything, does not make the game more "punk." The "punk" feeling comes from hopelessness. You can achieve this vibe by portraying normal people as accepting the current status quo as well. When everyone around the characters defines their own lives through the limits put on them by their oppressors, it sets a tone that you can't get through numbers or failed conflicts. When the characters can work hard, accomplish their goals, and the world is still a depressing mess. This will have a subtle affect on the themes and game play at the table.

  This is from the GM section and is intended as advice on how to deal with the characters' awesomeness.

  I dunno if this gets the Eero seal of approval or not ;-) , but I admire your work and hope it at least gets you to check it out.


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: dindenver on February 13, 2012, 12:52:20 PM
David,
  Thanks for chiming in, this is really helping me hone my message. I have been so focused on making a good game, then making a good book that this stuff hasn't even occurred to me.

Quote
Suppose that Steampunk Crescendo doesn't specifically support desperate working class action with political significance
  Well, that is what I am attempting to support. the setting part of the game is as deeply punk as I knew how to make it. I am not concerned about punk fashion (although I guess that is part of the culture), but more about the desperate action to try and make the world a better place in the face of greed and apathy.

Quote
What would you like to be told about the game?  What would get you most excited about it without being misleading?
Eero, this is an excellent question. If you want I can send you a link to the GameChef entry so you can see what it is about.

Quote
I ask because my impression is that, while you can certainly pick a punk portion of the setting and a punk Goal and Drawback for your character, the other characters and Antagonist might be very much not punk... that is, unless you can orchestrate a group agreement of "let's do punk" during the setting-customizing phase.  (Dave, please correct me if that's inaccurate!)
David, well, if you were to play the book as written, this is probably not true. There are certain tools that the GM has to keep the players down. For one, the PCs and Antagonists are at odds from square one (this introduces an immediate time sink on the players drive to their Goal). For another, the GM gets to set Goals and Drawbacks for the Antagonists as well. For a third, there is the establishment of several, large, influential organizations that are driven by greed and hubris. And finally, it is established that the NPCs are pretty much willing to accept their lot in life. It is a lot for the players to overcome, if the GM uses those tools. If they do not, there may be some happy unicorns in there somewhere.


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: David Berg on February 13, 2012, 02:07:23 PM
I'm curious: do you feel that Stempunk Crescendo reliably produces temptation and desperation in play?  I mean, aside from whether it can or whether it's supposed to.  In your play experience, does it?

The only reason I didn't emphasize those in the pitch was that I wasn't seeing them in your actual play reports in this thread.  Other elements seemed to outshine them.  But maybe I biased that impression with the questions I was asking.


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: dindenver on February 13, 2012, 02:26:25 PM
For Temptation, Yeah,
  I was able to consistently, at least once per session tempt a player into becoming a vampire just by reminding them they could get an extra bonus if they did.
  And it happened when other players GMd as well. The trick is that there is such a low cost of entry and you can't pull out as easily. there have even been one or two players who were like, "I am never going to play a vampire or have anything to do with vampire powers that ended the session with 3 or more powers."

For the desperation, that is harder to tell. I will admit as a GM, I am not good at evoking this response. But I did get some desperate complaining from players who thought the BBEG's were to BBE. And a few who were like, I got my goal, but this world isn't any better, is it? But I dunno if I hit the mark on Desperation though...


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on February 13, 2012, 02:56:23 PM
David's question is difficult, I guess I should read the game to be able to answer that - I mean, you could tell me many things that would specifically perk my interest, but I've no idea which ones would be true for this game.


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: David Berg on February 13, 2012, 07:12:38 PM
Eero, what I was wondering was a little broader than that.  How excited do you get about each of the following promises?

1) This game puts your working class characters into desperate situations where they must try to change the political system!

2) This game inspires you to play desperate working class punk action with political significance!

3) This game is about struggle and gives characters the power to cause lasting change in their environments.  It goes very nicely with a punk ethos if you want to play that.


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on February 13, 2012, 08:45:20 PM
I thought at first glance that the first angle would be my favourite, as I tend to prefer strong statements and specific game design over wishy-washy generalities. This is definitely not only about my gaming preference, but also about my history with the cultural landscape of roleplaying: the tradition of vague design has betrayed my personal creative goals as a roleplayer, which makes me wary about it. I tend to react negatively towards phrasings that indicate that the designer is trying to create a broadly-applicable toolkit game without more than a setting and some mechanics bringing the process of play together.

The above makes me dislike promise number three, it sounds like the sort of thing we tend to say about a game that's not truly visionary about where it's going. "You can do this cool thing" is not as strong a statement as "In this game you do this".

However, a second glance through those marketing statements actually makes me realize that number two is my real favourite. The problem with number one is that it smacks of excess narrow formalism in my particular rpg-text reading context: I could talk about Parlor Narration or theatrical recipes or games limiting their potential to curtail creative risks, but the nutshell of it is that I've found over the last five years that I do not care much about Mad Libs games that require little else from the players than filling in color for a dramatic arc that has mostly been predetermined. Promising me (like promise 1 does) that the game will definitely take my working class character and put him into a desperate situation where he must change the political system reads too cut-and-dry to me - I'd more prefer a game where I can decide for myself whether my character's circumstances are cause for revolution! In this regard promise number two strikes a more appealing balance.

If I really went into fine-tuning a statement along these lines, I'd probably say that the game is about this thing. "Inspiring" is sometimes a code-word for "I didn't really write a system to support that, but there's lots of fluff", which is less than ideal. Saying "The game is about desperate, politized punk in a victorian milieu" feels like a more neutral statement in this regard, it doesn't ping my overly prickly nose for trad product. Of course, after making such a bold claim it wouldn't hurt to give a couple sentences about how the game is about this thing: who are the oppressed, how is it working-class, what the action is like, so on.

I want to emphasize that I'm just describing myself as a customer here, not commenting on the game itself, which I still haven't read. The above is just me free-associating about David's marketing statements. And as I discussed earlier, you should think hard about your target audiences. Forge hardcore like myself are a narrow audience and not the most important one for most designers, you have bigger fish to catch out there.


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: dindenver on February 14, 2012, 01:20:09 PM
Here is the blurb I have so far:
Steampunk Crescendo
Will you succumb to temptation?

A roleplaying game for 3-6 players.  3+ hours, one or multiple sessions.
  Intuitive, streamlined ruleset.
  Antagonists are overcome using an action-based resolution system.
  Compelling, dystopian, steampunk setting with room for personalization and change.

In a dystopian era of vampires, magic, and steampunk super-science, you face overwhelming oppression.  Will you oppose your Antagonist?  Will you fight for your Goal, and in so doing, bring meaningful change to your world? Or indulge in the temptations of this world.


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: dindenver on February 14, 2012, 01:21:17 PM
So, after reading that, is this a group of statements that are not generic and say something meaningful?


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on February 14, 2012, 01:33:02 PM
That works pretty well for me, except that I personally find objectively modelling statements more immediately comprehensible than suggestive provocative ones. I mean that explanatory paragraph:

In a dystopian era of vampires, magic, and steampunk super-science, you face overwhelming oppression.  Will you oppose your Antagonist?  Will you fight for your Goal, and in so doing, bring meaningful change to your world? Or indulge in the temptations of this world.

Could that be phrased in an external way that does not focus on what it feels to play it, but rather describes the structure that the game's system paints? For example, I find it a more interesting description of the Sorcerer system to say that the Humanity score, which controls your character's viability as a player character, might or might not gain or lose in value for individual moral actions of your character - there is no guarantees case by case. The equivalent subjective description would be something like "in Sorcerer you face dire choices, will they have consequence? Are you capable of resisting madness, despair and peril for your soul?", which is more vague and thus less interesting in my eyes.

I don't know the game enough to craft a similar objectively external description about this, but it would probably be something where you say that the GM is mandated to provide the players with opportunities scene by scene to strive for either stopping their Antagonist or achieving their Goal, and often the two goals will be perpendicular, forcing the player to choose between them. Assuming this is how the game goes, to me that description paints a picture of a clean, well-considered structural principle - I could imagine writing a game on that basis.

Then again, I'm pretty sure that I'm in a minority on this, as there are many roleplayers who don't want to to be told about the game's system as an abstract framework. Depends on who is your ideal audience, I guess.


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: dindenver on February 14, 2012, 03:24:06 PM
Eero,
  I dig what you are saying, but there is not a game I know that follows a similar model.
  To break down typical play, you do the following:
1) Player picks a scene type (Exploration, Exposition, Research or Confrontation)
2) Player sets the scene
3) GM enters the scene and roleplaying starts
4) If a conflict breaks out, players declare Intentions for this conflict
5) Players declare Action Types
6) Players roll three dice (modified by their Action Type)
7) Players assign dice (after rolled) to Ambition, Cunning and Vigilance
8) Ambition totals vs Ambition totals are compared and players earn progress towards their Intention
9) Cunning totals are compared to Vigilance totals to see who gets hurt.
10) If everyone is willing and able to fight for their Intentions, go back to step 5
11) A player gets their Intention and die roll penalties are assessed for the next conflict based on how bad characters were hurt.
12) When the Scene ends go back to Step one with a different player.

  Basically, I took the mechanics from otherkind and made them a "roll vs" mechanics (both sides of a conflict roll, assign and compare totals).


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: dindenver on February 14, 2012, 03:24:51 PM
Oh,
  So, to follow that up with a question, how do I describe that succinctly?


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on February 14, 2012, 04:23:48 PM
That's an interesting structure. For a system-junkie like me it'd be a good idea to just describe what you're doing and how it's different from the norm. I could see that it's a "roleplaying game product" in the sense that it's game design and not as an exercise in game material writing alone.

"Otherkind dice" is actually a marketing term with some traction, strange as that may sound. It's only going to be us Forge-heads who recognize it, but we know that there is a rich undergrowth of minor indie games that use that dice allocation idea, ranging from Mechaton to Wyrd is Bond. It's maybe not something to put on the product itself unless this is somehow your dream audience, but in conventions and forums and such it's good to remember that it's a good way to communicate the nature of your game very quickly.

As for how to describe this in an exciting manner, I'd go with something like this:

"The GM is going to have an Antagonist prepped just for you, and he's gonna be there when your character finally has a chance to grab at his goals. Dice are rolled, and you assign them according to your priorities: do you care about your own safety, about stopping the Antagonist, or achieving your goal. Only rarely will you be able to get them all!"

Also, maybe something about the scene pick thing if that has interesting procedural ramifications. It's one of the trendy mechanical ideas lately, the notion that there's a set of different scene types and the player has partial or total control over the "type" of scene we're gonna play. Kingdom of Nothing and Mars Colony both have variations of this structural idea, for example. Definitely something to name-drop, I find it an interesting way to distribute authority myself, and will lean towards checking out a game that does it.


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: dindenver on February 14, 2012, 04:36:15 PM
I use Scene Type more like a flag than a rules structure. It is just a way for players to communicate with each other what is going on. It is kind of like how a player sets the scene in PTA, but less direct (not asking what the scene is about).
I like what you put. I will probably boil it down to less sentences, but it is a good launching point.

  I have seen lots of references to Otherkind Dice, but when I mentioned it on other forums (SG), no one knew what I was talking about, lol


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: David Berg on February 15, 2012, 01:59:03 AM
Dice are rolled, and you assign them according to your priorities: do you care about [X, Y or Z]? Only rarely will you be able to get them all!

I like that type of pitch text too.  But Eero and I may both be atypical.

Dave, I suspect it'd help at this point if you could try to formulate and share a vision of your target audience.  Who do you most want to reach?  Is it neophile forum-dwelling indie one-shot lovers?  Campaign-hungry folks who saw World of Darkness games on hobby store shelves, loved the premise, but wound up disliking the execution?  RPGnet regulars who like Cyberpunk?  Denver goths?  Rich people?  Steve Jackson?


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: dindenver on February 15, 2012, 03:49:11 PM
Basically, I want to entice three  kinds of players:
1) players that are vampire fans and are looking for something new(whether or not they are happy with the current offerings). Steampunk crescendo hits the vampire notes well.
2) players that are fans of Victorian era settings. To me this setting is rife with conflict and dystopic notes.
3) players that are looking for a good punk setting. This one is important to me because many people have expressed sentiments similar to Eero's, that more genuine punk is hard to find...
  I think that players who are swayed by system will instantly embrace or reject Steampunk Crescendo based on their preferences, but setting will drive play and sales. I may be completely wrong, but I don't think I could sell a different game by merely saying, this is d20 vampires.
  I hope I can generate interest in my game and not scare away people who would be otherwise interested with terms associated with identity politics or any trad/Indie/story game bull being implied. Its not so much that I don't want to pick a side as much as I genuinely feel that it doesn't matter to most players...


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: David Berg on February 16, 2012, 12:38:19 PM
Cool.  What types of work are you willing to do to reach those people?  Will you spend time and money, and travel, or are you exclusively looking for cheap and easy ways to market the game online?


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: dindenver on February 22, 2012, 01:40:35 PM
David,
  Good question. I am not expecting this to make a lot of money. So, in order to keep the costs at an acceptable level, it is necessary to keep the cost of marketing and promotion as low as possible.
  I am willing to promote things at Conventions I am already going to, but will not travel or sign up for conventions just to promote my game. I wanted to treat Gaming stores in a similar fashion.
  I am willing to spend effort if the idea has a chance to get my game in front of prospective buyers, just don't want to spend a lot of money.
  Did you have any ideas?


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: David Berg on February 23, 2012, 05:15:51 PM
Various cheap ways I can think of to reach fans of vampires, victoriana, and punk:
- Make a cool website with those aesthetics.
- Make free sample game content available on said website, with said content speaking to those aesthetics.  Art, stories, play reports, play aids, simplified rules documents, etc.  Give cool free stuff and collect email addresses.  Then if you have anything worth telling folks directly, you can.
- Join online communities for fans of Vampire, Buffy, True Blood, Dracula, Twilight, steampunk, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Hellboy, Brazil, The Clash, Radiohead, Fallout, Misspent Youth, and any other appropriate cultural entities (TV, movies, music, novels, comics, video games) you can think of.  Look for appropriate places therein to mention your game.  Start quizzes or contests and offer your game as a prize for the winners.
- Mention your game on RPG sites, hopefully with some engaging stories to read or art to look at so it isn't just a pitch and nothing else.
- In any place where you mention your game, offer deals or events or limited free stuff or any other reason for someone to check it out now, before they forget.
- Make posters and put them up wherever you can find a space for posters on college campuses, punk clubs, or near a retailer that carries the game.
- Offer to make posters for retailers if they'll carry your game, hyping their store as well as your game.
- Make small cool things to give out free at cons, like pins, postcards, posters, or dice.

Just brainstorming here.  I'm sure you can cross some of those off and come up with better ones.

Without a website, you'll be limited to those people who'll buy the game just based off of whatever pitch you give, plus the product details on Lulu.  I do not know this for a fact, but I think your odds of turning first contacts into sales are way better if you use a website as a stepping stone.  If you want to save money on domain registration and webhosting, I could stash a page for you somewhere in one of my domains, but I think you'd be better off shelling out the $70 or so per year.


Title: Re: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb
Post by: David Berg on February 23, 2012, 05:17:33 PM
Oh, another one:
- contact con organizers, see what kind of exposure you can get, offer to help out in exchange for featuring your game in some fashion