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Author Topic: Untitled DrWho Project  (Read 1346 times)
Dan Maruschak
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Posts: 128


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« on: April 09, 2012, 02:33:16 PM »

My four threads are:
[Kissanil] Answers to Power 19
Character Creation placement
Chrono Master?
[BSU] "Blowing Stuff Up" - Basic Draft

I was already leaning towards something Doctor Who-related once I saw the ingredients Doctor and Chrono Master?. In the [Kissanil] thread, there's this quote: Itís about strong dilemas like ďIf I could drain the sunís energy to save my loverís soul, should I do it?Ē That could easily be the theme of a Doctor Who story. And of course there's plenty of mimicry going on in the show: from the obvious, like the TARDIS's chameleon circuit, to the way that the sci-fi elements of the stories will often mimic folklore or history (e.g. aliens that have similarities to vampires, alien cultures that mimic medieval europe). I'm a fan of the show (in both the classic and modern incarnations -- I'm most drawn to the Tom Baker era, which was my first exposure, and I feel like the Matt Smith episodes have been a return to "proper" Doctor Who where there's a sense of fun and whimsy mixed in with the sci-fi and adventure). I've been thinking that I should try my hand at creating a good Doctor Who game since I was disappointed by the recent officially licensed Cubicle 7 product (it's basically the traditional "skill rolls vs. GM-set target numbers" chassis with a layer of "only fail when you want to" points poured over it), and it seems like this Game Chef is my opportunity to do that.

Since I don't have an official license, I'm going to do a "serial numbers filed off" game. I think this also potentially introduces a fun creative constraint into play (I was never interested in Harry Potter gaming until my imagination was sparked by the "Harry Potter with the serial numbers filed off" game Boarsdraft -- the "similar, but different" effect got my creative juices flowing). Since I'm trying to avoid direct references to the source material I haven't settled on a good title yet (plus I'm pretty bad with titles in general). I'm probably inclined to make story structure pretty heavily involved in the mechanics -- I don't want to just slap Doctor Who color on something generic, I want to figure out what makes Doctor Who stories special to me and figure out how to get that to happen in a game. That may be too ambitious for a Game Chef game, but I need to follow the idea that's getting me excited (I explored a few alternative ingredient combinations but I didn't feel the fire in my belly to attack them like I do this one). Most Doctor Who stories are generally structured like mysteries where a lot of the story involves just uncovering what's going on, so I'll need to figure out how to wrap the game around that. The concept of "plot as background detail" is something I've been thinking about since I playtested Boarsdraft, so I may try to develop some of my thoughts on that concept in this game, but I'm not sure yet since I haven't figured out what the foreground (i.e. what the players mechanically interact with) would be if I embrace that metaphor.
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mrteapot
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Posts: 40


« Reply #1 on: April 09, 2012, 03:28:45 PM »

"Plot as background detail" is a very Doctor Who sort of thing.  Lots of Doctor Who stories have this sort of thing going on where they have utterly rejected traditional ideas of what makes a good story.  They'll not explain things until the moment that they are relevant rather than foreshadowing it.  Or when there is foreshadowing, it is very heavy handed and weird and probably pointing at stuff that won't happen for several more episodes.  The stories are mysteries, but not really fair ones.  You couldn't really solve the mysteries with the clues provided.  These and other aspects are problems according to traditional ideas of a good story, but Doctor Who keeps being engaging because of (not despite) these things.

Which all makes for great RPG fodder.  All of those things are true of lots of roleplaying game plots, too, especially those made up on the fly.  It suggests that the players should be doing something else and "solving the problem" could be done at any time given enough technobabble, provided the players already sorted out the emotional core of the story or whatever the players are doing.


It took a fairly large amount of self-control to not make a Doctor who knockoff game for me as well.  I already wrote my Doctor Who knockoff last year.
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Matthew Sullivan-Barrett
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Posts: 19


« Reply #2 on: April 09, 2012, 04:04:13 PM »

Right on, Dan, I'm glad someone is stepping up to the plate.  It had to be done, man, and I'm super excited to see how it comes out.

I always like the Psych 101 episodes, where it's all just a thin metaphor for the human experience, which I recall seeing a lot of in the Tenant era.

Alons-y!
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PeterBB
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Posts: 48


« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2012, 04:06:50 PM »

This game sounds relevant to my interests!

I completely agree that "plot as background detail" is true, but I would be careful not to lose the "exploring a fascinating universe" element. The monsters aren't the core of the stories, but they are definitely part of the draw anyway.
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Troy_Costisick
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« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2012, 04:37:40 AM »

I love mystery games, Dan.  Dr. Who is a classic, so I hipe it goes well for you.  I'll just plug one of my favorite games real fast: Inspectres.  It is Ghostbusters with the serial numbers filed off.  Maybe that can provide some inspiration.

Peace,

Troy
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mrteapot
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Posts: 40


« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2012, 11:17:07 AM »

I'll just plug one of my favorite games real fast: Inspectres.  It is Ghostbusters with the serial numbers filed off.  Maybe that can provide some inspiration.

If I were making the game, this would be my starting point as well.  But I'm interested in seeing what Dan comes up with.
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Dan Maruschak
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« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2012, 12:11:58 PM »

My current plan is to have the GM prep several things. First, they'll prep the "mystery", which is going to be something along the lines of "what does it look like on the surface?" (e.g. vampires), "what's the sci-fi twist?" (e.g. aliens that need to consume the iron from vertebrate blood), and "what's the crisis?" (e.g. aliens begin conquest of earth). Second, they'll prep a bunch of colorful details about the setting and about the people and aliens involved. Scene-framing will be mostly a player choice, but there will be some procedure during the GM prep that puts a list of elements onto a player-facing list, and player's will get some sort of in-game benefit for framing scenes that include that element. The GM's job will be to introduce elements of the mystery and elements of their colorful prep (since not everything the GM introduces will be "plot significant", players won't feel obligated to latch onto every detail the GM throws at them), and the things on the player-facing list will be places or situations that will facilitate the GM doing that job (so the player-facing list might have something like "the theater", and when the player frames a scene at the theater it will make it organic for the GM to introduce the colorful "theater manager" NPC he's created, or the Chinese magician character that's an element of the mystery).

I think play will be broken down into a few phases that have slightly different mechanics. Right now I'm thinking three phases, the beginning, middle, and end. The boundary between the beginning and the middle is the "The True Mystery is Revealed" step (e.g. it's not vampires, it's blood-drinking aliens!) and the boundary between the middle and the end is "The Threat is Revealed" step (e.g. we need to stop them before they open a space-bridge to their homeworld and begin their invasion!). In the first two phases players won't be mechanically interacting with the mystery, but doing something else like building relationships or something (this is the part that's still fuzziest for me), risking horror, injury, or danger to the people they know. In the end phase they'll be able to do something directly in the mechanics to avert the crisis. The GM will be limited in what kind of fiction they can introduce. So, for example, in one phase they might be able to do violence to characters off-screen, but they may only be allowed to threaten a befriended character on-screen where a PC has an opportunity to avert it (like I said, this part is still gelling).

I've never played InSpectres, but I'm familiar with it. I think I want to go in more of a GM-prepped "mystery" direction (of the "not fair" type, where basically the story isn't about a character/audience deducing clues, but about following characters as a situation is slowly revealed) rather than an on-the-fly approach. The play of the game won't really be "will they figure it out?", but more about what happens to the characters along the way: are they filled with wonder, horrified, alienated, enlightened, etc.? My main mechanical touchpoint is the playtest I did of Boarsdraft a while back. There were some things I thought were interesting in that game and some places where I thought it needed work. Unfortunately the designer of that game isn't going to take it in the direction I think it needs to go, so I'm trying to go in that direction myself with this game. It's part of my larger area of interest in the idea of having strongly structured plots as a platform for exploring characters, as opposed to the more common Forge-derived approach of having strongly defined characters which ram into each other to produce emergent plot.
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Troy_Costisick
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« Reply #7 on: April 10, 2012, 02:48:00 PM »

So what would make this game the kind of game you only play once?
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Dan Maruschak
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« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2012, 03:23:24 PM »

The "last chance" theme isn't strongly represented in the design (yet?), although my goal is for each session to map to a single story (i.e. one episode of the modern format, or a 4- or 6-episode arc in the classic half-hour-with-cliffhangers format) and character creation will be very light-weight so it should be playable as a one-shot.
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Dan Maruschak
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« Reply #9 on: April 12, 2012, 10:05:32 AM »

I'm still struggling with a character system. One of the ideas I'm trying to incorporate into the game comes from some of the commentary tracks I've listened to. I forget who said it, but the idea was that people tend to overstate the differences in characterization between different regenerations of The Doctor, and that most of the actors could play "their" Doctor even with a script written for a different regeneration. The most obvious place to see this on-screen is in The Five Doctors, where Peter Davidson does all of the Gallifrey political stuff that was originally supposed to be for Tom Baker. Different regenerations emphasize different aspects of The Doctor, but it's rarely a completely new personality. Sure, Colin Baker's Doctor is notably arrogant, but they're all arrogant in their own ways. I'm not sure how I want to translate that into play yet.

Right now I'm leaning toward something like Poison'd, where a character will roll one of their stats against another one of their stats to determine their result, so something like: When The Chronomaster tries to convince someone to do things his way, roll Kindness vs. Arrogance.
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my blog | my podcast | My game Final Hour of a Storied Age needs playtesters!
Dan Maruschak
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Posts: 128


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« Reply #10 on: April 14, 2012, 01:05:25 AM »

I've finished a first draft of the game, tentatively called Getting There in Time. Here's the PDF: Getting There in Time rev0.1. I still want to finish a sample adventure for the supplemental materials, and I'm also a few hundred words over the limit so I'm going to work on some more edits to try to trim some fat. I'd appreciate feedback! My biggest question is: is the game playable, i.e. do you understand what I want you to do from reading the rules? Are there things I'm asking you to do that seem like they'd be unreasonably difficult? Are there pieces missing? My second biggest question is: does it feel like a Doctor Who game?
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my blog | my podcast | My game Final Hour of a Storied Age needs playtesters!
Dan Maruschak
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Posts: 128


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« Reply #11 on: April 14, 2012, 07:34:47 PM »

I finished the tweaks I was planning. Here's the draft I plan to submit for the contest: Getting There in Time rev 0.2.
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