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Author Topic: [Phantasm (2010)] Grindhouse Horror RPG Needs Playtesters  (Read 1122 times)
Devon Oratz
Member

Posts: 75


« on: January 24, 2011, 11:31:04 AM »

Greetings And Salutations

Hello Forge! My name is Devon Oratz, but I do business (and perhaps that should be "business" since precious little or no money actually changes hands) as Ghostlight Games, a company that is almost-but-not-quite just me.

I have been designing roleplaying games of various stripes for the past ten years (and more, counting juvenilia). This includes not just pen and paper RPGs but also LARPs and computer games. In spite of having been fully immersed in game design for a very long time, this is the first time I have publically released a P&P game that I have designed. At this point in my career, I think that I have achieved all that I can designing such games "in a vacuum" so to speak. This game may be a slightly misleading introduction to any future output you see from me, for two reasons:

1) It is "freeware". (Technically: postcardware.)
2) It is an entirely derivative work, and not based on an original IP. Naturally, this necessitates #1.

Based on current projections, other projects I have in the pipeline won't share either of those traits.

What is Phantasm(2010)?

From what "market" research I've done, it seems like you guys don't make it easy to answer the question "What is game x?". : P

Nonetheless, I will give it my best shot. Phantasm(2010) (henceforth P10) is a "grindhouse horror RPG". So what does that mean? To me it means that P10 is designed to emulate and model the genre conventions and tell the same kinds of stories as "good bad" b horror movies from the 1970s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s. Obviously (or not, depending on your knowledge of obscure old horror movies) the primary influence was the Phantasm series of films by Don Coscarelli (of slightly more mainstream Bubba Ho-tep fame), from which the game derives its name. Other horror staples which I stole liberally from include Hellraiser, From Dusk Till Dawn, Salem's Lot, Planet Terror and many more. That last one (Planet Terror) is especially useful as an example, because it was knowingly and intentionally a grindhouse horror movie. A much less wordy way of saying what I am trying to say about genre would be to point to Planet Terror and say "that but an RPG". I shed so much ink on this because the distinction between grindhouse horror and Lovecraftian horror, psychological horror, and even its closer cousins zombie apocalypse and survival horror was to me, an important one. The game is not meant to be played for laughs, and rather is a mix of action and scares, but there is a certain knowing, filmic cheesiness incorporated into its design. A better written description of the genre can be found starting on pg. 4 of the rulebook.

Naturally, P10 borrows (or, if you like, "renders") various elements from these films, but it does not require any prior knowledge of them, nor is it limited to them. Instead it attempts to encompass an entire genre: the aforementioned grindhouse horror. Admittedly, its ignoble origins (and this is going back 6+ years now) were simply to "make an RPG of the Phantasm movies" but since then it has become significantly broader based.

The characters are ordinary (badass) people with "real world" occupations (in other words, not cyborgs or special forces) who attempt to survive/combat/investigate the forces of darkness, using only their wits, and, well, muscle cars, pickup trucks, shotguns, chainsaws, and other genre staples. The emphasis slides from "survive" to "combat" or even "brutally curbstomp" depending on the chosen character tier (more on that later). In any case, the 'investigate' part is definitely an optional sideline.

P10 is fairly "traditional" in that the GM controls the setting and NPCs and the players control their characters. It also uses dice (more on that later). One area in which it is unique is the ability of the players to deploy Film Breaks (more on those later, too) to disrupt the narrative with an unseen deus ex machina in a situation where a total party wipeout seems certain.

P10, is set, vaguely, in the small towns of the American southwest in the second half of the 20th century. The specifics are up to the GM and the gaming group. This setting provides the necessary isolation for an entire town to disappear into the desert unnoticed, an environment where anything can happen and there is no help to be had except yourselves. The setting was also chosen for its familiarity: horror in your own hometown. Of course, the real "setting" of P10 is the grindhouse horror sub-genre, which I have already talked about at some length.

There are three character tiers in P10, all with rather ridiculous names. They are:

* Badass Normal
* Uber Badass
* Superhuman Badass

Picture a slider, with "horror, cloying despair, inevitable defeat"  on the left side and "action, adventure, ass-kicking" on the right. Character tiers are how a group of players (including the GM) set this slider, with Badass Normal on the left, Superhuman Badass on the right, and Uber Badass (the default) somewhere in between. The game's underlying mechanics (starting with the number of points you have to spend at character creation) are meant to reinforce this in various ways. Character tier is a decision made during character creation, at the start of the campaign. Naturally, for the sake of fairness, all PCs must be of the same character tier for a given campaign. In keeping with the popcorn gaming motif of P10, character creation is kept relatively quick and simple (although compared to a diceless or lite system it might seem complex). In any case, there are only four primary attributes in P10.

If I did well, P10 should be fun for all the same reasons that the movies it is inspired by are fun.

P10 uses only d6. The core resolution mechanic is to roll 2d6, but how that roll is processed does vary depending on the action taken. For all actions but attacks, you want to roll under the relevant attribute (Strength, Speed, Wits, Will), with attributes rated from 1 to 10 and further modified by any skills relevant to the task, and by the task's difficulty. That is probably less complicated than I just made it sound. For instance, if you had a Speed of 6 and were an Expert (+2) in the Locksmith skill, you would want to roll an 8 or under on 2d6 to succeed. If the task were particularly difficult or easy, the GM might add a Difficulty Modifier (of -2 or +2) to the Attribute + Skill Bonus. So a poorly made lock might require the same character only to roll 10 or less, while an exceptionally well made lock might require the same character to roll a 6 or less.  Attacks are resolved similarly, except that you want to roll high, and meet or exceed the target's Defense. A character who was an Expert (+2) with the Pistols skill would roll 2d6 + 2, trying to hit the target's Defense of 8. Attributes don't directly impact attack rolls like they do other tasks,  but they do influence every other aspect of combat. (Damage is rolled, again on d6.) Naturally, this being a full-sized traditional RPG, there are various complications and factors that add "spice" to the core mechanic. All weapons, maneuvers, and enemies are designed to model combat in a way that is "genre-realistic". If you're curious, the link is right there.

I could get into those bottom ten of the Power 19, but I'd rather you download the game, read it, and hopefully play it and it almost seems you'd be less likely to if I went on exhaustively describing every aspect of it. However, if you have any questions, I'd be more than happy to answer them. : )

Here is the point I am currently at. Phantasm(2010) is the first real draft of what might be thought of as the second "edition" of this game concept: it was a ground-up rewrite/reboot of a mostly-finished game that I made with the same ideas back in 2005 and sporadically revised since then, playing it only with my close friends. The original version of Phantasm had a weak core resolution mechanic due to my poor understanding of RNG, and various other embarrassing artifacts of my youth. P10 is a much more "mature" game, much better designed, and is completed. It has the funny sounding name it has to distinguish it from the "original" Phantasm game I wrote, from the Phantasm movies that inspired it, from the totally unrelated fantasy RPG called Phantasm published by Wildhaven Creative, etc. Hence: P10.

Anyway, the game is complete and has just been extensively proofread and revised for spelling, grammar, format, consistency, etcetera. It is really only two steps away from being "finished" in my mind, and those steps are: art assets and playtesting. P10 is a complete game that has never been played by anyone, ever. The point of this post is to change that. I myself am too swamped with other creative projects, with other tabletop games I am running for a group of players I see only sporadically, and with the occasional requirements of "real life" to seek playtesting for P10 any way other than crowdsourcing. Which segues, hopefully, into my next and final header.

Yeah, but what do you want?

Good of you to ask. The following four things, in descending order of usefulness to me, are what I need at this stage:

* People to playtest the game and send me reports of what is and is not working for them. (What is working is important at this stage.)
* Suggestions on where else to advertise and/or publish the game. Simple links are great, risk/benefit analysis even better. : )
* In-depth analysis of the game on paper short of playtesting is also useful. Again, remember to mention what you did like.
* Feedback on this post. This forum post is not the game, and probably doesn't do an optimal job of representing it.

That link again is Mr. Plow!

tl;dr click the link, please download the game, play it if you can, tell me what you think whether or not you're able to play it, and let me know where else in your opinion I should be posting this. Thank you very much for your time, and sorry that this post was so epic in length.
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~"Quiet desperation, it ain't my goddamn scene!"~
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My Blog: tarotAmerican
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2011, 08:20:22 PM »

Hey Devon,

With apologies for not providing much feedback, I wanted to let you know that I get a kick out of the material you're tapping into. While I check out your file, take a few minutes to look at this: Sphear, by Jared Sorensen. I think you'll enjoy it.

Best, Ron
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Devon Oratz
Member

Posts: 75


« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2011, 09:30:00 AM »

Whaaaaaaat? Oh my. I'd no idea.

If I had only known that these thirteen pages had been written, I wouldn't have written my own 150 or so pages. Curses. Do you know when Sphear was written?

I remember long long ago back in 2005 when I first had the idea to make a Phantasm RPG, the first thing I did was search the interwebs to see if it had already been done. Either it hadn't at that time (I haven't really checked since) or I critically failed my search check.
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~"Quiet desperation, it ain't my goddamn scene!"~
***
My Blog: tarotAmerican
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2011, 11:06:06 AM »

Hi Devon,

I think you may have the wrong idea. Just because someone was inspired by Phantasm for a previous game design means absolutely nothing for your own ambitions. There's no "first rights" for simple inspiration. So your comment about not designing it if you'd known is completely unwarranted. My intention in providing that link was to help you, not discourage you. It shows that people out there like the film as much as you do and that there's a lot of creative room to try different techniques. Sphear is a very ambitious, very unusual game design. Your design can be as way-out-there or as traditional as you like.

Best, Ron
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Devon Oratz
Member

Posts: 75


« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2011, 04:43:15 PM »

It was an interesting read certainly; that kind of minimalism (for lack of a better word) in game design is kind of a new one on me, and I'm finding it pretty fascinating.

I guess it was mainly the economy of Sphear that I found discouraging. You're right, someone else doing it first is trivial, especially as we're talking about an adaptation. Someone else doing it in thirteen pages to my ~150 on the other hand...makes me feel a wee bit silly. Especially since we're also probably talking ~24 hours to my ~5 years. 

Anyway, I actually was running back to edit my post a few hours ago when I discovered that that's not allowed here. Which is going to take some getitng used to.  I was going to change around my wording a little and add that I was pleasantly surprised that anyone but me liked Phantasm and RPGs enough to make an RPG of Phantasm. 

In any case, I'd still be happy to hear some thoughts from you (or for that matter, anyone) on the hefty tome that I've posted here. : )
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~"Quiet desperation, it ain't my goddamn scene!"~
***
My Blog: tarotAmerican
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