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Author Topic: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb  (Read 8258 times)
dindenver
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« 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.
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Dave M
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David Berg
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« Reply #1 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.
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dindenver
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« Reply #2 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...
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Dave M
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My blog
Free Demo
dindenver
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Posts: 1049

Don't Panic!


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« Reply #3 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.
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Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo
David Berg
Member

Posts: 997


« Reply #4 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?
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dindenver
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« Reply #5 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?
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Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo
David Berg
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Posts: 997


« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2012, 04:02:13 PM »

How do you make positive or negative progress along the Goal meter?
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dindenver
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Don't Panic!


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« Reply #7 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.
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Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo
David Berg
Member

Posts: 997


« Reply #8 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.
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dindenver
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Don't Panic!


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« Reply #9 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?
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Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo
David Berg
Member

Posts: 997


« Reply #10 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.
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dindenver
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Don't Panic!


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« Reply #11 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.
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Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo
David Berg
Member

Posts: 997


« Reply #12 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.
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dindenver
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Don't Panic!


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« Reply #13 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...
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Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo
David Berg
Member

Posts: 997


« Reply #14 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.
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