Q4 2021 UPDATE

The winter months are upon us again. I’m shuttering the lab for the season and wanted to tidy things up before turning off the lights and padlocking the cellar door. It’s been a busy and productive year. I was fortunate to be able to work on games and enjoy the inspirations on Twitter. It got me through a few challenges IRL and gave me a way to put words on pages. I also took time to organize my catalog of docs and projects, which is a low priority during game development.

A PERSCRIPTION FOR INSPIRATION

Throughout the year, as ideas accumulated, docs and folders were created and sorted for potential candidates, a process that incurred a margin of clutter and redundancy. However, the time of only using the Google Keep app to handle my seed ideas is long behind me. I still use Keep to put down thoughts, but now I put new game concepts in a Google Docs format at the moment there’s something to consider with substance.

I looked into one-page games, and even had a nice idea I was working on for a contest. I saw a “no chart games” clause and started to lose interest. I realized how suffocating one page was. If the product is best served as an Amazon softcover anthology, that would be a ton of work and a long haul with 20 one-page games, optional gameplay and storytelling content, designer’s notes, and book stuff. Make money with an Omnibus?

Prototype System and REACTOR give characters agency and players room to breathe. These aren’t beer and pretzels systems. They are light and fast and give the players lots of different ways to enjoy interactive story worlds. However, I owed it to myself to try…

A one-page game system that offers an extremely light and highly specialized system.

ESCAPE CAPSULE

Here’s my one-page game pitch for 2-4 players:

When the alarm sounded, you had a handful of minutes to make your way to a nearby life pod and evacuate the doomed ship. Red warning lights flashed as the crew climbed aboard and the hatch was sealed.

3… 2… 1… Away!

Suddenly, a catastrophic explosion sends a shockwave rippling through the spacecraft! The capsule has sustained critical damage, affecting the onboard AI. Use your skills and work together to stay alive.

I’d need to crunch the rules down to make a one-page game even feasible. Which becomes about theoretical than practical. I don’t need more limits.

In 2019, I wrote Minigame System with three tables to determine event outcomes. The narration was brief, with players focusing more on task completion than storytelling. Inventory was determined by pre-gen. Characters started the game with a signature object, their baggage. Players built scenes with action points that determined a winner. Not everyone would make it out alive; all were themes I’d revisit with REACTOR.

Table A shows the character’s inventory. Objects can offer a role-specific bonus when a character uses their signature ability to advance the story.

Table B lists the types of actions. Characters can fight, block, make, or hide. Fight and block are primary actions. Make and hide are secondary actions that put status effects on the table. Primary actions affect the characters. Secondary actions affect the world.

Table C details the way players describe the story world by answering six different questions. Each interrogative looks at a particular story detail that defines the world.

A timer is used to add tension as the players gain and lose points. Action outcomes are determined, story content is revealed, and the game moves toward a victory condition.

2-4 players can start an impromptu session with Minigame and just one six-sided die, a d6. One player can take on the role of the AI that tries to direct traffic during the game.

The pitch had some sparkle. From a publication standpoint, I could see 10 games with the classic Minigame rules, with another 10 pages of variant rules and tables of content to release a softcover. Unless it wasn’t expected to be a softcover product.

There’s the fact that I really wasn’t feeling the one-page format, and without charts. I just muscled through the bitter taste and tried to enjoy the medium. I thought about the travel size category, which is underrepresented with a rules-light retail rpg effort.

The right answer is that there should be a fun and quality tabletop roleplaying game for $1. I’m just not sure I want it to be a one-page game.

CLEARING OUT THE MEDICINE CABINET

The Keep app is more of a junk drawer place to collect thoughts that I export to Docs on a yearly schedule. At that point, they are archived in a vault that I will more than likely never come back to. The upside is that with the constant stream of content that I enjoy, there’s a good chance it will go straight to a folder. My workload makes it hard to take on new projects unless they sparkle. If I miss a moment, it may not circle back around.

2021 yielded about 9 pages of Keep concepts that caught my eye or made me think. They tend to be raw and lean. Without further development, an idea thread can be lost. The content is mostly loglines, motivations, snippets, and titles to be vetted. If a seed idea sprouts, it creates a series of docs and folders, and then I’m off and running.

I also wrote a design environment to study inspirations for features, mechanisms, and techniques. The main difference between a game candidate and a design environment is that an environment is made to benefit other projects. It’s not intended for sale.

OMEGA SECTOR

Omega Sector is one such environment. When I go back to the drawing board to start a new project or look at gameplay mechanisms for projects that I’m already working on, I revisit this amazing creation. The game is M III. It’s an unpublished, internal-use-only title that I wrote to help me understand various aspects of development and publication.

My original idea was a game that gave the players a lot of fast combat and character actions in an interactive story world. 2-4 players take on the roles of unique characters who have personal goals in dangerous situations. What’s not to like?

To keep the pressure on the characters, player turns would need to be very short. The variety of outcomes would address replayability, and storytelling would take place at the top and bottom of each scene to facilitate character development.

Where did Omega Sector come from? It’s a variant of Icarus, a bold development that brings the game by using modifiers and multipliers to resolve conditions and determine outcomes. Icarus came about as an iteration of Minigame and a game called The Skylab Crisis that took up 23 pages. Hardly mini. Production shifted to Icarus, which became Omega Sector.

I hadn’t worked on a really big system that gave the players a variety of world interactions yet, and this felt like a solid move in that direction.

M III – MANKIND, MUTANTS, MACHINES

2-4 players can become a Medic, Tech, Officer, or Specialist, the survivors of mankind who are hunted by deadly machines and mutants that seek to eradicate all human flesh. Time to revive the other team members, soldier.

M III puts action and combat at the top of the list. Players jump into the game with pre-gen characters and roll dice or draw cards to reveal combat and affect action outcomes. Characters can also upgrade weapons, vehicles, and missions. And a whole lot more.

I wanted gameplay with an arcade feel that kept the player’s adrenaline pumping. There are brief storytelling segments supported by canon lore to frame scenes for goals and rewards. Characters can also upgrade their weapons, vehicles, and missions.

Fight to destroy the enemy! Build and repair ancient gadgets to power your skills and weapons! Complete missions and earn rewards as you try to survive in a deadly post-apocalyptic setting!

Omega Sector includes an interesting action and combat mechanism called a modifier:

Modifiers change the number of dice in a player’s dice pool for that turn. Modifiers are linked to attributes, so characters become stronger or weaker, more focused or easily confused, healthy or sick, quick or slow. Coordinate your attributes with actions or combat to enhance your skills.

That means your pre-gen will perform differently than another pre-gen, right from the start. Depending on outcomes, your character will develop differently as well. It comes with layers of cross-connected stat modifiers to major and minor outcomes for vehicles, weapons, and upgrades. It also includes a conceptual and thematic universe of story content with canon lore and factions, that all fits within a modest production budget.

However, determining outcomes is a bit unwieldy and problematic at the moment, and there are other sections that still need a lot of work. At 28 pages with a cover, given time it could theoretically be fixed and see the light of day as a playable game. But the effort to do so would be great. Working on it yields a case study in feature creep, among other important lessons. It also helps with hard questions like “how much is too much?”

M III as a concept came from my interest in writing a d20 setting back in 2010.

THE HOUSE ON ORCHARD LANE

After publishing THOOL in December, I worked on it into February and released Public Alpha 2 13 21b, out now on Amazon. Check it out here: https://amzn.to/3t6somc

The fixes were mostly things that I missed before the publish commit deadline. It’s still a Work-In-Progress with a healthy to-do list. No Scribus version or softcover edition yet.

$1 GAME SERIES

In May, things got busy IRL, and my productivity ebbed. Yet, I was able to begin work on Prototype Gen 2 which will feature in my upcoming $1 Game line. I dabbled in one-page games before but felt they were too restrictive for my needs. The effort to make them meant a ton of titles had to be published as an anthology to get a softcover. No thanks!

A game for a buck has to offer more bang than just cheap. In about an hour, the players get to interact in a storytelling world. Then share how fun it was.

Gen 2 honors the simplicity and quickness of Prototype and strengthens the framework to support multiple cross-genre titles in the $1 Game series, which are about 15 pages each. About half of the first book is written, with other games in the series to follow.

The $1 Game idea came from a desire to offer top-shelf effort in a modest format. Who can gripe about a 15 page game for a buck that entertains up to four players for an hour?

All $1 Games are made with the same core rules, which means you can mix and match the characters from different titles in custom games that you get to explore and define.

TOOLS OF THE ALCHEMIST

I’m using Google Docs for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Drafts. THOOL was written on a Chromebook about half the time, the other half using a Windows environment. These days, I’m mostly writing in Docs with Windows. My aging Acer CB3-532 Chromebook is reaching its end-of-life date for OS updates.

I caught it on a sale back in 2018 for $179, and it was a big part of how I got things done. I can’t say enough nice things about writing with a Chromebook and using Docs and Drive to get work done. To quickly put words on a page it’s a great asset.

Google Docs exporting to pdf for print is still an issue, which I don’t like talking about.

These days, my Chromebook stays charged and updated, but unused. I looked at another to replace it, and don’t have any problems with getting an Acer. There’s the Acer 317 with a 17″ Full HD IPS. Oh my.

When the 3rd Draft pdf looks as good as I can get it, all things considered, I push it thru the Kindle Create tool to get the product out there as a Public Alpha exclusively on Amazon. Of course, the very notion of a public alpha is fancy speak for a WIP, which means playing the game will undoubtedly present placeholder content and unfinished layouts. However, the game is technically in a playable state.

I’m trying out 3D fonts with Blender. OpenClipart and FontSpace help out as well. There are also cool metahuman tools I’d like to learn about in Unreal Engine 5.

POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS

Perhaps by spring, I’ll have a 1st Draft of the first $1 Game, Industrial Accident, as well as the next THOOL update. Prototype Gen 2 is the current big project I’m working on.

There’s also a really cool ʻOumuamua title I wanted to come back to. It’s inspired by how I felt when I researched the object and saw how close it came to Earth. It was on a one-of-a-kind trajectory that brought it close enough to Earth for something to happen.

It’s the very first object of interstellar origin observed in the Solar System, which means the stakes have got to be high and the odds neigh-impossible. Perfect!

As the last days of December loom, I reflect on my blessings. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work on more games and projects.

Play safe. Write responsibly.™

© copyright 2021 James Glover and 1000mg Games. All rights reserved.

THE HOUSE ON ORCHARD LANE

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I’m happy to announce my Indiegogo fundraiser for The House on Orchard Lane has successfully launched and is funding now.

Get the game here >> http://bit.ly/THEHOUSEONORCHARDLANE <<

The project is just beginning its crowd-sourced development phase where backers can suggest ideas that might possibly appear in the game.

In addition, the project will try to secure funding for talented commissioned artwork.

It’s an exciting time as the project has been in development since July 2018. And also because the fundraiser format is a testbed foundation for future game development.

I’ll be making tweaks and changes along the way to adjust for scale and theme, but it will be based on my Indiegogo variant layout. Thank you, Indiegogo!

A press release would be customary at some point, however, I don’t want the content and feature descriptions to interfere with the fundraiser. Plus, it’s a work-in-progress.

Marketing is focused on a solid, yet spam-sensitive promotion during the fundraiser and after depending on if InDemand requirements are met. The game will land at Amazon for the Kindle so there will continue to be product promotions.

And yes. The switch from Kickstarter to Indiegogo.

I’ll have to get into that at a later time. For now, I have a fundraiser to attend.

© copyright 2019 James Glover and 1000mg Games. All rights reserved.

 

NEW YEAR, NEW GAME

On 18 October 2013, I created the first files for The House on Orchard Lane. It was just a seed of an idea at that point. A title, in fact. I had planned to roll over work from another horror game called Evidence Locker, which was about murder weapons in police custody.

As I studied themes and influences, I translated the game titles into Chinese. This marked the beginning of my combat genre product category that produced two strong contenders: Evidence Locker and AI: Awake.

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Somewhere around this time, the Nightmare Escape brand was dreamed up. It became clear to me that the story had to include a house as a character. Players would use their characters to attack and destroy the home of evil and those who seek its dark comforts.

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Fast forward to July 2018. I returned to my “Halloween game” product. It would play like a slasher flick. Friday the 13th movies were a major influence, along with Halloween and Hellraiser, and others. Oh my.

I saw potential in visceral tabletop horror rpgs and remembered thinking, “wouldn’t it be nice to play a game that sandboxed a slaughterhouse?”

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Soon, I’ll be launching a Kickstarter to raise funds for The House on Orchard Lane, the “Halloween game” that I finally got back to. It’s the project I’m working on.

I released an early look picture of the above title art on Twitter. Now I’m announcing it here for my followers:

The countdown to launch clock for The House on Orchard Lane Kickstarter has started.

Closing out old news, our G+ community has been shuttered. Welcome to everyone who made the jump to this site or Twitter. It also looks like Google URL shortener will cease soon. If any links break let me know. I’ll be using Bitly from here on out.

Stay tuned for more details and a roasted, full-bodied update.

© copyright 2019 James Glover and 1000mg Games. All rights reserved.

 

Acts of Liberty: A Primer

PREAMBLE

Acts of Liberty was borne out of a conversation about recital of the Pledge of Allegiance in the classroom, which led to research about US citizenship requirements and ultimately, the Constitution. From that point, it was relatively easy to find lots of source material to create a thematic jump off. I chose the kishōtenketsu four act narrative structure as the inspiration for my storytelling framework, and that’s when the title came into view.

The Prototype System takes the beginning-middle-twist-ending formula, moves the familiar conflict resolution element to the periphery, and refocuses on contrast and exposition. In each act, content is introduced that builds on or alters established story developments.

The clock is turned back to the summer of 1788, on the eve of the ratification of the Constitution. 2-4 players take on the roles of characters, everyday citizens who are suspected of crimes against the state. Brought before an authoritarian judicial league known as the Council, their stories unfold.

Acts of Liberty is a tabletop storytelling rpg that includes the rules and game charts. All you need is a deck of playing cards and a handful of tokens.

ARTICLE I

Beginning with act one, the players take turns constructing their characters. There are four different archetypes: artisan, farmer, merchant, and soldier. Prototype allows multiple instances of an archetype to increase the story complexity. At the beginning of the act, each player draws a 1st card and refers to the world blueprint chart to build a character.

The card suits introduce nearly 50 different kinds of descriptors that reveal facts about the characters. In act one, drawing 2nd and 3rd cards reveals dispositions and knowledge that further define their characters.

The card values introduce seven different kinds of narrative-framing questions that offer over 150 unique story-building elements.

The starting player is an active character providing a testimony from the perspective of a suspect who is accused of a crime against the state. All other players become passive characters who represent witnesses that can interact with the suspect’s testimony.

Suspects can spend tokens to draw additional cards to reveal more story, or they can engage in evidence tampering in order to conceal, fabricate, or destroy parts of their own testimony.

Witnesses can spend tokens to alter a suspect’s testimony through witness tampering in order to bribe or coerce, introduce an eyewitness or victim testimony, or provide hostile or contrary statements.

When each character has concluded their testimony, the act ends.

ARTICLE II

Gameplay rotates clockwise to the next player who becomes a suspect, continuing as before until each player has had a chance to narrate as both suspect and witness.

In act two, the players take turns constructing their terrains. There are four different archetypes: coastal, mountain, prairie, and swamp. At the beginning of the act, each player draws a 1st card and refers to the world blueprint chart to build a terrain.

By drawing a 2nd or 3rd card, players can reveal conditions and influences that further define their terrains.

Gameplay continues in the same manner as before, with each player shifting between the roles of suspect and witness, contributing and affecting testimonies that build on the events that were established in act one.

When each character has concluded their testimony, the act ends.

ARTICLE III

As before, gameplay rotates clockwise to the next player who becomes a suspect, and continues until each character has provided statements or altered testimonies as both suspect and witness.

In act three, the players take turns constructing their incursions. There are four different archetypes: family, military, nobility, and tribunal. At the beginning of the act, each player draws a 1st card and refers to the world blueprint chart to build an incursion.

With the drawing a 2nd or 3rd card, players can further define their incursions by revealing  disruptions and perceptions.

Again each player shifts between the roles of suspect and witness, contributing and affecting testimonies that build on the events that were established in acts one and two.

When each character has concluded their testimony, act three ends.

ARTICLE IV

In the final act, gameplay rotates clockwise to the next player who becomes a suspect, and continues until each character has provided statements or affected testimonies as both suspect and witness.

Act four has the characters taking turns to construct their judgements. There are four different archetypes: allegiance, condemn, pardon, and treachery. At the start of the act, each player draws a 1st card and refers to the world blueprint chart to build a judgment.

By drawing a 2nd or 3rd card, players can further define their judgments by revealing impressions and reflections.

Each player shifts between the roles of suspect and witness, weighing the outcome of the changes to acts one and two that were made by the incursions of acts three.

When each character has offered a final testimony, the game concludes.

CLOSING ENDORSEMENT

Acts of Liberty takes place in a sandbox storytelling environment where the characters stand accused of crimes. Over the course of four acts, they can reveal or alter evidence and testimonies that create a complex and interconnected drama.

AMENDMENTS

In addition, the game also includes:

  • Super Elements, global constructs that affect all narratives.
  • 4 optional gameplay expanding rules.

JUDICIAL REVIEW

It’s a subtle yet compelling tabletop game. Explore the court of the Council, and witness the dark crucible of justice that threatens the birth of democracy in early America.

Acts of Liberty is available now on Amazon.

Copyright © 2017 James Glover and 1000mg Games. All rights reserved.

Welcome Back Kotter

In November of 2015, I retreated to develop a tabletop rpg system and the first title that it would feature. I shut everything down and told myself no incremental updates or teasers until I had something substantial to report. During that blackout time, I halted work on all of my other projects and spontaneous flavors of the month to hunker down, work out the details, and get the damn thing done. I can now see light at the end of the long tunnel, which means development is almost over.

It’s been an incredibly rewarding and educational ride.

When I started this studio in 2014, I had just completed a stint working on half of the Post World Games series 1 Protocols, and a handful of titles that appeared in series 2. I came away from that experience with a strong desire to tell my own stories, and began my search for an interesting architecture that I could incorporate or reinterpret into an enjoyable game system. In the following months, I stumbled upon kishōtenketsu, a classic narrative structure that was used to explore plots without conflict resolution.

Kishōtenketsu has been around for a very long time to say the least, and is featured in many popular art forms such as poetry, manga, and video games. Around 2012, there was a flurry of attention centered around employing it in tabletop rpgs, but then suddenly the topic died off. My research led me to believe it had remained under utilized. In fact, the only game I could find that used the structure was in what would become the second version of Raspberry Heaven by Yaruki Zero Games. In my estimate, the field was wide open, and in late 2015 I chose it as the inspiration for my system.

To be fair, others had shopped kishōtenketsu as a narrative platform for rpgs. However, the overarching opinion was that it was dull or impossible to implement. More popular storytelling frameworks included conflict resolution, and this didn’t have it. The truth was, in Kishōtenketsu there could be conflict, but resolution would not be the focus. I found this to be appealing. Also, the component parts were simple and linear, and could support a variety of themes and dramatic elements.

Right now, the completion of my first game looms on the horizon. I’ll be posting more details in the coming days as we head toward its release, so stay tuned.

Copyright © 2016 James Glover and 1000mg Games. All rights reserved.