[Game Chef 2011] Daughters of the Canon

Started by Kadrin, July 15, 2011, 06:05:00 PM

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Or something like that. I'll probably end up changing the title. I didn't actually think I'd participate in this, and then I had a Brilliant Idea that struck me in the face and now I have to make it. Plusses: experience, may end up putting it on Indie Games Revolution and making one million three dollars. Minuses: all the other game ideas look FANTASTIC and I'll spend all three dollars on buying them all, I bet.

Okay. Basically; the game is set in the mind of a Shakespeare-like Bard. Or Shakespeare himself, to use pregenerated characters. The characters are ideas for plays, who have to keep harmony in his mind by 'completing adventures' that journey between the realms of the Banal and the Fantastic, so that they themselves can link ordinary life and the supernatural world of ideas and fantasy together, in the way the Bard did. Enemies include Ideas, which must be subdued and added to the play; and Despairs, which can tear about the play entirely. Plays that succeed, are completed, and added to the Canon become the poet's metaphorical Daughters; plays that fail become Exiles, which are particularly powerful Despairs. ...And also each play has an essential Nature, ding, done.

I'm thinking that the basic mechanic will be 2d6+2 - because then it's a sonnet of two six line verses and a concluding couplet - and that a double (or Rhyme) is a critical, whether success or failure. I'm also thinking that a double will allow you to add a sonnet to the poet's Canon, and that somehow in the game you'll be able to draw on the sonnets and plays in the Canon (perhaps previously-successful player-character Daughters). I'm rather bothered that 6-6-2 is the Petrarchan sonnet, and that 4-4-4-2 is the Shakespearean sonnet, but 3d4+2 seems a little more unwieldy and more difficult to form a Rhyme. I'll probably just stick with 2d6+2 and put an apologetic note in the rules.


You could go d8+d6; that's how pre-Shakespearean sonnets usually divided between question and response.


...That's a really nice idea, actually. It works, and it removes the problem I had of "but the +2 really doesn't do anything". Also, it makes Rhymes a little rarer, which is fine by me.


The horrible, wonderful thing has nearly written itself - and changed its name to The Bard's Daughters, which I like a lot better - and that's good, because I've got the mechanics all done and the first draft nearly done in a single day, allowing me time to playtest. It's also bad because it's done rather too much writing itself; I'm up to 2990 words of actual draft and I've still got two sections to write. I think tomorrow will be a day for excessive pruning.

The sample character:

Name: The Banqueter's Trumpet
Nature: A farcical comedy full of fart jokes.
Manifestations: 1 - Sir Flatulus, the fat and heavily-moustached main character; 2 - an ass, for the pun value
Themes: Blood 1, Love 3, Rhetoric 2
Scene Progression: Act I, Scene I
Heat: 3

...but that's just the sample character. You don't actually have to include any farting.


First draft done. I like all the mechanics; might need to modify the target numbers, based on Thursday's playtesting. I think most of the modifications, though, will be in wording, word choice, and LOSING AROUND 1800 WORDS. I get voluble in game design, apparently.



Having hacked mercilessly at my dear brainchild with the Machete of Editing, I've managed to get her down to 2998 words. Success, as it were. Of course, now it's all so much less charming, and part of me is convinced that ripping out all the flavour text has cost me any chance of winning.

The rest of me, however, isn't so much concerned with winning as with enjoying the competition. And that's a lot more of me.

At any rate, it's a bunch of playtesting tomorrow to see how the mechanics work in practice, final editing as necessary, and then - submission! Here's hoping all goes well. I'm definitely proud enough of my result to do a Ganakagok or Dance and the Dawn - polish up the prose, work on some layout and design, add a lot more hints and possible adventures, throw in some art, make it all pretty, and then put it online for $5 or so. I have long thought that I should be pursuing some sort of career in game design; this could be a wonderful beginning, or at least look good on a resume.

The mechanics are still flummoxing me a little; putting the target numbers where they seemed to give good numbers in pure theory seemed to end up way too tough in practice. For the moment, I've lowered them to what looks "way too easy" on the probability factor. Playtesting will see it out. I'm probably of the opinion that players should succeed more often than they fail, anyway. With the Rhyme system of the sonnet dice, criticals on both sides will be much more common, and an encounter full of critical failures is only fun in retrospect.

There are things I'll definitely have to resolve. While I love the concept of "inspiration heat" as "hit points", I don't think I've got the system for that working quite perfectly. There's also a lot of encouragement towards heavily stacking one's character to a single stat, and there's just enough competitive game over co-operative story that that's a problem - especially since it might end with everyone's character looking the same, a faceless horde of all-Blood tragedies and all-Rhetoric histories. The current Scene Progression advancement - which, again, I love in theory - rewards a whole party equally for foes beaten individually; so a party of two Dreams taking on four Ideas is rewarded just the same way as fourteen Dreams taking on four Ideas. This makes things too easy for large parties.

I don't think I'll have time to resolve these issues before submission, though; that's for polishing afterwards. On the whole, I think what I've got down is what there's going to be. I'm mostly pretty happy with that. I think it came out well, and I'm proud enough to put it forward. If nothing else, I learned a lot.