Sunday, May 30, 2010

5- Resolution System

A resolution system has the ability to add some flavour to the game so I want to make sure I get this right.

I'm still tossing up (no pun intended) whether to go with a dice system or a card based system.

The card system has the advantage of being catchy and unique and I can tie it to the gambling the raison d'etre of the gentlemen's club, the disadvantage is that I can't think of a really successful system that uses cards for resolution. I'm not saying they don't exist I've just never played one.

The big advantage of a dice system is the familiarity. RPGs and dice go together like email and bacon.

The gentlemen's clubs of the age had several popular dice games which might be useful for resolution. One in particular "hazard" has possibilities but I'm having trouble finding a way to streamline it. Stay posted...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

4- An Unclubbable Man

Today I was thinking about how to incorporate the Victorian institution of the “Gentleman’s Club” into Victoria. Today “gentleman’s club” carries different connotations than back then. English readers will partially identify this as being basically a strip club. Back then it meant an inner-city refuge for the elite of society; a place to get away from the trivialities of life... such as women.

Initially my thought was to incorporate them as a flavour of the age but as I delved deeper into their histories, membership requirements (such as they are: the Traveler’s club requires that a prospective member must have traveled at least 500 miles in a straight line from the club) and mandates I began to feel that they could have a more central role to play in the character creation process.

I haven’t really started into character creation yet so I’m excited to see where it will take me. Basing characters in a club has given me the impetus to start into the processing of figuring out what characteristics will define a character in Victoria. Of course many of the characters will be unfortunate “unclubbable” types but proceeding from the expectation that a character will be a “gentleman” is very much in line with the Victorian age.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

3- What's in a Name

I'm fortunate to have worked in web design and I know that having a web presence is vital, particularly as I want to initially publish via PDF as a way to minimize financial risk. With this in mind I needed to get a good domain name that will also be a compelling title.

My first choice for the game was Victoria, so I checked, it's strong, and obviously evocative, but, equally obviously, already taken. Postage stamps were first issued around this time so I thought Penny-black might be ok (taken) and then I looked for Penny Red, the second stamp that lasted for about half the Victorian era, also gone.

I went back and looked for combinations involving Victoria and settled on and With them I could still use the name I wanted but also have a web address that was easy to remember. Eventually you'll find this very blog linked at that site. In fact you probably already have.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

2- What's It All About?

In the past I played a lot of White Wolf games and the games I ran gravitated towards The Hunters Hunted and especially Project Twilight. They had regular people fighting the supernatural with the opportunity to prevail through stoic single mindedness.

These were people and characters I could relate to, operating in a world I knew with goals I could identify with. This was the idea I started with but I didn't want to just create the same games as I'd played. A few tweaks here and there, a different resolution scheme but essentially the same game wouldn't do it.

It was important to me to incorporate the possibility of the supernatural but use our world as the setting. Historically speaking the last time there was widespread interest in, and acceptance of the supernatural, was during the Victorian era. I did some reading put together a few time-lines and discovered that the setting offers a lot of possibilities even apart from anything supernatural. There's also the possibility that if my game is successful I can write a setting for America, specifically the wild west, at some time in the future.

So that's it. My first full roleplaying game will be somewhat supernatural set in the Victorian age. Old-boys networks, the occult, Jack the ripper, cockney mud-larkls, Dracula and science performed for its own sake on stormy nights.

Now a name...

Monday, May 24, 2010

1- Out of the gates

Over the last few posts I laid out my history with roleplaying games and how I'd always wanted to write my one game and or be employed in the industry.

What specifically set me on the path to producing my own game was listening to a roleplaying podcast called Fear the Boot that featured an interview with Fred Hicks of Evil Hat in which he outlined the path he took to producing Don't Rest Your Head and Spirit of the Century.

The crucial parts of the interview for me were his discussion of how advances in technology had provided new opportunities for indie publishers to get their game out there and how print-on-demand publishing had substantially reduced the financial risk associated with producing a commercially viable product.

It was the combination of these two ideas in the context of roleplaying that inspired me to finally attempt to independently write and publish my own game.

This blog will outline the trials and tribulations of this process.

Where it All Began Pt. 5

After those early years I met some people in high school and moved onto Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Middle Earth Roleplaying, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Paranoia, Rolemaster, Car Wars and probably several others. The longest running campaign I played in was Dragonlance which we played up until module 8.

At the end of high school I didn't play very much and then not at all as I went through university. It wasn't until I was in graduate school that I got back into it. On a whim I went to the university's roleplaying group one night and happened to be in the right place at the right time to join a Mage the Ascension game.

The game was part of what White Wolf called "a renaissance of gaming". A little grandiose to begin with perhaps, but in many respects the games did lead the way for a shift in the types of game being produced. Their games were at the vanguard of a shift towards emphasis on character, cohesive backstories and a fleshed out mythos players could legitimately feel their characters had a stake in.

First edition Vampire, Werewolf, Mage and Wraith certainly weren't the first games to place the emphasis here but they captured my imagination like The Mystery of Chimney Rock had. I preferred the style of roleplaying they encouraged but it was the way the GM made it work that really showed me what was possible with roleplaying. We played that game every week for about three years and it was great every time. I still hold myself to the standard he set today.

Since then I've played pretty consistently without too much concern for the exact system. The whole time though, in fact since I knew what roleplaying was, I have wanted to make writing games and playing games my living. This blog is about my attempt to do that and if you're reading this I guess I have succeeded, at least in producing one game, if not fame and riches.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Where it All Began Pt. 4

Now with dice I could almost start playing Dungeons & Dragons. The last piece of the puzzle was someone to play with at every available moment. So, I did what any normal person would do and tried to run games for my father, brother and mother. These games invariably ended in disaster. If you ask my mother about those sessions all she'll recall was me saying "You can do whatever you want" at the start followed by "You can't do that" as soon as she tried to do something.

The disasters were largely associated with my in inability to convey the fine line between being able to do anything you want and the necessity of the dungeon master to control that freedom through the use of the dice. It seemed like a simple idea to me but perhaps that goes to the heart of why there are so few roleplayers.

I can't be too hard on my mother, she got me my first dice and photocopied large tracts of Dungeons and Dragons rulebooks and character sheets for me at the school where she worked. In fact she had to contend with an evangelical christian lady in the office who, despite not owning the photocopier, refused to allow my mother to use it to copy "the work of the devil". My mother, resourceful as she was, waited until she went to lunch or home for the day to get it done.

Those of us old enough to remember roleplaying in the eighties will recall that admitting you played Dungeons and Dragons meant you were in league with the Devil. The funny thing was that none of the coolness that kids into heavy metal had because they were listening the music of the Devil rubbed off on those of us playing the game of the Devil. Roleplayers were evil nerds. It was quite a time and a lot of that stigma still exists today.

Here's a link to a 60 minutes (!) segment on the evil hobby from that time to get a feeling for what it was like and what the world, to varying degrees, thought of it.

60 Minutes on Dungeons Dragons 1985 Part 1

60 Minutes on Dungeons Dragons 1985 Part 2

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Where it All Began Pt. 3

The next contact I had with roleplaying was through a book called What is Dungeons and Dragons?* by John Butterfield and David Honigmann. I think my Great Aunt bought the book because it was the right size and had a dragon on the front with dice coming out of its eyes. The book was just a somewhat dubious attempt to corral some of the cash being made by legitimate publications, however, it did serve a very important purpose later on.

Shortly afterwards a different friend got the newly released red box set of Basic Dungeons and Dragons and while I had photocopies of what you might charitably refer to as "excepts" from the book I didn't have any of the polyhedral dice required to play, and coming from a small town, no way to get them.

Some time later my mother, for reasons I can't recall, took a plane trip to our closest big city and so, obviously, I gave her the task of getting a set of dice for me. Today doing such a thing would be easy, in 1984, however, it was quite a different proposition.

The first obstacle was that there was no such thing as the internet to track down a gaming store. This meant she had go place to place asking where one was and then, sniffing a potential sale, fielding questions about what she was looking for. Have you ever tried to describe a polyhedral dice to someone? The concept is simple enough but even today, these different shaped dice with their weird sides still fascinate people. The saying "a picture is worth a thousand words" definitely applies to them, fortunately I had that picture!

So, armed withWhat is Dungeons and Dragons my mother went off to get my dice, and whatever else she had planned to do. She didn't fail me. A few days later I had my first, what she called "dungeons dice". 25 years later I still have four of them, a love of roleplaying, and my Mother to thank for both.

* As I trawled the internet recently trying to find a better picture than the tiny thumbnail I had of the cover of What is Dungeons and Dragons I discovered a site called with a recent review of this book. Thanks to them I have that larger image as well as a copy of The Shrine of Kolchap I've been trying to replace for years.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Where it All Began Pt. 2

Interestingly my first introduction to a real RPG was not Dungeons and Dragons but Traveller. A fiend of mine's brother had several traveller books and he swore the game was awesome, certainly better than Dungeons and Dragons (whatever that was). I was excited by the idea of the game but after my bad experience with Starship Traveller I was reluctant to venture into space again.

Turns out I was right to be. We spent, what seemed like hours making a characters only for mine to die DURING CHARACTER CREATION just as it looked like we were actually going to play. Space was a cruel mistress and if this was the best Roleplaying had to offer I was sticking with Fighting Fantasy and a date with Zanbar Bone in a little town called Port Blacksand!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Where it All Began Pt. 1

Starting at the start... my introduction to roleplaying came quite by chance care of a "Lucky Books Grab Bag". The Lucky Book Club is, or perhaps was, the New Zealand equivalent of Scholastic Books. Once every few months their thin, cheaply printed, catalog would come around and, if it was your birthday or something, you could get a book or two. If you parents had won the lottery or a magical goose had mysteriously shown up for a few days,then and only then could you get a coveted "Lucky Grab Bag".

The "Lucky Grab Bag" was in hindsight not quite so magical as it contained a "random" selection of books, which were probably under-selling or over-produced titles. In any case, the perception of the 10 year old me was that it was awesome and especially so on the occasion I was lucky enough to get one. Amongst the titles was the book that started it all, The Mystery of Chimney Rock by Edward Packard.

Setting aside my copy of The Star Wars Question and Answer Book about Space I dug into this weird book where you could literally choose your own adventure and it was amazing! I was instantly captivated by being able to move around in the story somewhat on my own terms make my own decisions. I've been hooked on the idea ever since.

From Choose Your Own Adventure titles I moved on to Steve Jackson and Ian Livingston's "Fighting Fantasy" series beginning with "The Warlock of Firetop Mountain". I enjoyed the dice rolling aspect of the combat and the harder edge. I particularly liked "The City of Thieves" and "The Forest of Doom" one that I did not enjoy was "Starship Traveller" and that, as it turned out, was to postpone my entrance into rpg's.