Jennisodes Interview!

I had a great time chatting with Jen of the Jennisodes, were we got a chance to discuss Spark in some detail. While I’m self-conscious about all my “ums” in the interview, I think it went well.

Check it out over here at The Jennisodes!

If you came here from the podcast and want to find the open beta versions of the game, you can find it right here.

The Status of Spark

I wanted to provide a bit of a status report for the Spark RPG project. I know that I have been relatively quiet on here, and thought that you might appreciate an update.

The Open Beta that I launched in 2012 taught me a great deal. Playtesting did an excellent job at pointing out what portions of the text required major overhauls though I feel badly for the players who suffered through the earlier iterations. The reworked collaboration and conflict mechanics are finally producing the game play experience I desire.

This fall, I observed a 4 session blind playtest from a local group, led by one of my assistant editors (Mark Richardson). This test showed me that the game did too good of a job encouraging conflict, without encouraging cooperation between characters. I reworked the relatively negative “baggage” questions into more positive ties between characters. It also highlighted the danger of vocal players drowning out the quieter ones during the collaborative process, so I added more guidance to counter that fact.

After that point, I sent the text to my editor (David Hill) for the revision first pass.  He did a masterful job, as expected, in pointing out problems with the text. I’m particularly thankful that he identified a piece of the text that was disrespectful of mental illness. I reworked that section to be far more inclusive because of his help, and the game will be better for it.  Beyond that, he showed me the places that required elaboration and example text.

Over the holidays, I threw myself into the task of incorporating all of the revisions and writing some additional setting content. This current version of the text comes to 32K words in length, including all three settings. I have it back in David’s hands so that he can do another editing pass for me.

I am presently working on organizing my kickstarter campaign, tentatively scheduled for March of 2013. With luck, I will be able to make at least my minimum goal and publish the thing.

Dresden Files RPG – A Magic System Hack

I am a fan of Fate and the Dresden files RPG system in specific. That said, I have noticed that there are some rough spots in the magic system from my perspective. I found that the absolute dependence on the three existing magic skills was less than idea. This post consists of my little hack to the magic system to meet my personal preferences, in hopes that it broadens the discussion. I would love your comments and thoughts!

 

Changes to Powers

Evocation (-2)  (Wizard Requirement)

Evocation: You’re able to use evocation in all of its forms, as described on page 249. You gain five new skills, rated at Mediocre (+0), representing the different types of evocations that you are capable of performing. These skills are typically Fire, Air, Water, Earth, and Spirit/Force, for those trained in the classical western tradition. Underline these skills on the character sheet to keep track of them.

Specialization: Gain 5 Evocation Skill-points, which can only be spent on increasing your Evocation skills.

 

 Thaumaturgy (-2) (Wizard Requirement)

Evocation: You’re able to use Thaumaturgy in all of its forms, as described on page 261. You gain five new skills, rated at Mediocre (+0), representing the different types of thaumaturgical spells that you are capable of performing. These skills are typically Summoning and Binding, Conjuration, Divination, Veils, and Wards. Underline these skills on the character sheet to keep track of them.

Crafting: You can craft Items and Potions, which you may possess by purchasing the Focus Item, Enchanted Item or Potion

Specialization: Gain 5 Thaumaturgy Skill-points, which can only be spent on increasing your Thaumaturgy skills.

 

Refinement (-1) (Wizard Requirement)

Gain 5 skill points which may only be spent to increase your Evocation or Thaumaturgy skills.

 

Focus Items (-1) (Wizard Requirement)

A focus is simple. Whenever you cast a spell with the appropriate focus for the appropriate skill, you gain a free aspect of “Focussed” for that spell, including a free tag.

 

Enchanted Items (-1)

You gain 4 Enchanted Item slots.

 

Potions (-1) as normal

Channeling (-2)

Pick a specific thematic specialization of Magic. You can cast Evocations with your Conviction, within the limits of that thematic specialization.

 

Ritual (-2)

Pick a very specific Thematic area of magic. You can cast Thaumaturgy with your Discipline, within the limits of that thematic specialization.

 

Sponsored Magic (-1)

Gain the Channelling and Ritual rules, at no cost but incurring 1 Sponsor Debt with each casting.

 

Casting Evocations:

Follow all the normal procedures for steps 1,2 and 3.

Roll your appropriate Thaumaturgy Skill to control the power. You can apply aspects to this roll, including the free invoke of the “Focussed” aspect if you have a relevant focus item.

If you fall short, you will succeed but you will have to pay a price. Count the number of shifts that you are missing. Those will strike you as backlash, unless you can mitigate enough of them by….

  • Drawing on power outside yourself, taking on Sponsor Debt from other willing creatures or things beyond reality in exchange for two shifts.
  • You can cause fallout and damage the environment for two shifts.

Anything left over deals physical stress damage to you.

Rote spells work as normal.

 

Casting Thaumaturgy:

Follow all the normal procedures, except that your maximum number of shifts per roll is determined by your  Discipline instead.

Roll your appropriate Thaumaturgy Skill to control the power. You can apply aspects to this roll, including the free invoke of the “Focussed” aspect if you have a relevant focus item.

If you fail any individual roll, the spell fails entirely and there is a price. Count the number of shifts that you have accumulated so far. Those will strike you as backlash, unless you can mitigate enough of them by….

  • Drawing on power outside yourself by taking on Sponsor Debt from other willing creatures or things beyond reality. In exchange, you reduce the backlash by 2.
  • Sacrificing unwilling inhuman creatures during the casting, reducing the backlash by 2. Sacrifice of a more powerful creatures may further reduce the backlash.
  • Deliberately sacrificing humans will reduce the backlash by 4. Enjoy your new title as “Lawbreaker of the First Law”.
  • Drawing from objects that store power to reduce the backlash by 2.
  • Causing fallout and damage the environment to reduce the backlash by 2.

Anything left over deals physical stress damage to you.

Sharing Choices

Art is a way to communicate experiences.  Every art form tries to convey different kinds of experiences, with a variety of different tools.

Paintings convey human perception of the world and of our own imaginations. When I saw a local Van Gogh exhibit, I was struck by his focus on the smallest gems of nature in a larger context. The individual paint strokes were used to convey a sense of motion, which is impressive in such a fixed media. This art form shares where we come from, and how we view the world.

Dance tells a story with the subtle movements of the human forms. Expressing ideas and concepts through their posture and movements is an impressive accomplishment that still boggles my mind.

Music shares emotion, from a melodious piano solo to an exciting and breathtaking full symphony. The interplay between instruments is a way to make emotions clear to the audience.

Roleplaying games hold a very special niche within the arts, in that our hobby forces the audience (players) to make choices. We create situations that are emotionally powerful and ethically challenging. We place ourselves in other people’s shoes and we make decisions that we could not or would not make in real life. Through roleplaying games, we can experience the agony of a small business owner who has to lay off his hard working staff. We can live the joy of a mother who reunites with her estranged daughter. We can destroy kingdoms, embrace a new faith, lose it all, or crawl up from the gutters. Each of these experiences helps us grow as people, and ensure that we can make better choices in the future in our own lives. That is the power of our art.

Am I wrong? Is there some aspect of RPG’s as an art for that I am missing? Let me know in the comments.