We must Organize!

I thought I knew what I was doing last year.   My plan had been to write up the text of the game, then simply make a _few_ revisions based on the playtesting.   I thought that my design _must_ have been advanced enough that I could commission art.  I expected that I could finish off playtesting in 6-9 months, max and have my book in public Beta by early 2012.

I have learned a great deal over the last year.   I tore out 50% of the system and abandoned the text which I _had_ been writing.  I changed my approach and decided that I really needed to get the core system solidified before I tried anything else.   This led to me creating and heavily revising of a 2-page rules summary, just so that I had something to work from.

This is almost all I had ready by the time the convention season began.  Each playtest taught me a different lesson.  CanGames taught me that the game itself had the potential to be fun and compelling.  The Grand Roludothon taught me to simplify the mechanics and adopt a more improvisational style.  GenCon gave me 2-3 pages worth of astounding feedback which I am only now starting to digest.

Now I am organizing all of the rules for the Spark RPG.   I have Google Docs open and I am populating it with a series of one-line statements.  Each statement corresponds to an individual rule, concept, explanation or piece of advice for the game.  When I finish that up, I will be able to organize the content and turn that into a solid outline for my next attempt at writing the rule.  My hope is that through outlining, I ought to be able to write the game in the most concise manner possible without losing clarity.

Are there any readers in the audience who outline this way?  If not, how do you organize your RPG content?

Spark RPG, current iteration

Thanks to the incredible feedback over at the two threads here from the Grand Roludothon, I have made some fairly significant changes to the Spark RPG.

Here are highlights of some of the most significant changes.  I have also attached the new and improved version of that summary sheet which I will be using when I run “Seeking Suki” at GenCon.  Yes, this is the first time I am actually publicly posting the outline of my system.   I would love to hear your thoughts!

1) Trainings have been renamed as Talents
2) Pillars have been renamed as Beliefs
3) The old way of framing scenes has been replaced.  Now one person picks the basic situation, one person states what drives people act and one person decides the fundamental question that people want to answer.  I stole this partially from 3:16 and partially from Microscope/Primetime Adventures.
4) I cleaned up spending Fate.  Now you can only spend it in one specific way during a scene depending on the phase, or as a result of a resolution.
5) Fortune is gone.
6) A difference of 1-3 between sides in a conflict now gives each side a Resolution.  It is impossible to get a “wiff” result since every conflict has _something_ happen.
7) I simplified the list of Resolutions and added “Question” since it seemed to come up constantly.
8) Paradigms still exist, but only as an option and not one that I will bring out during the con demo scenarios.
9) Ritual Phrases will define when a conflict is started or when a scene ends.

Please let me know what you think about the changes and thank you all for participating!

Jason Pitre


The gameplay is built from a series of scenes, each of which has 5 different phases.


Phase 1: Open the Scene and define what the scene is about.

Phase 2: Collaboration between participants in freeform roleplaying.

Phase 3: Conflict between participants, when the collaboration stops and participants disagree.

Phase 4: Resolution of the conflicts and dealing with the outcomes of the conflicts.  Go to Collaboration.

Phase 5: Closing the Scene and determine what the scene meant.


1 – Open the Scene

1)    Three different participants cooperate to create the scene.

2)    Roll your Spark dice or Support and compare what you rolled.

3)    The highest roll gets to pick the Platform, Tilt or Question.  The second highest gets the next pick one of the two remaining options.  The third highest gets the last option.

  • The Platform:  Define where the scene takes place and who is present.
  • The Tilt: Define what event or action forces players to interact with the Scene.
  • The Question: What is the essential question that you are trying to answer with the scene?

You can spend Fate to Decide;

Spend 1 Fate to immediately pick the Platform, Tilt or Question before the dice are rolled.



2 – Collaboration

1)    Roleplay freely, speaking in character and declaring actions.

2)    All participants can declare what their character tries to accomplish.

3)    If no one opposes what you declare, it occurs.

4)    If you want to add extra details about someone else’s declaration, say “yes, and” then elaborate.

5)    You can declare things outside of your character such as objects, events or non-player characters so long as they have already been introduced in the past.

6)    If you want to prevent someone else’s Declaration, say “We are in conflict” and move to the Conflict phase.

You can spend Fate to Flashback;

Spend 1 Fate to narrate a short flashback which introduces something new to the story.

Immediately after that flashback, reintroduce that new element to the current scene.

3 – Conflict

1)    Each participant picks sides in the conflict.

2)    Determine what dice you roll, based on your Attribute modified by any Conditions.

3)    Determine the highest Talent bonus on their side, used in step 5.

4)    Roll your dice

5)    Each side has a score made of the highest number rolled, plus their Talent Bonus as determined in step 3.

6)    Compare the scores of each side, with the greater score winning the conflict.

7)    The number of successes is equal to the difference between scores.

You can spend Fate to Confirm;

Spend 1 Fate to switch dice between two participants, if one of your Beliefs is confronted.

4 – Resolution

Every die which shows a value of 1 gives the opposing side 1 Resolution

If you have 0-3 successes, each side gets to choose 1 Resolution

If you have 4-5 successes, the winner may choose 1 Resolution

If you have 6-7 successes, the winner may choose 2 Resolutions

If you have 8-9 successes, the winner may choose 3 Resolutions

If you have 10-11 successes, the winner may choose 4 Resolutions

If you have 12-19 successes, the winner may choose 5 Resolutions

If you have 20+ successes, the winner may choose 6 Resolutions

Below are the 8 different types of resolutions.  You may pick them multiple times.

  • Heal:  Remove a Damage marker from an Attribute
  • Harm:  Add a Damage marker to an Attribute
  • Question: Force a character to answer a question
  • Compel: Force a participant to perform an action.
  • Boon: Add or remove a Boon condition from a character, potentially with a cost in Fate.
  • Bane: Add or remove a Bane condition from a character, potentially with a cost in Fate.
  • Inspire: Offer another participant Fate so they adopt a new Belief of your choice.
  • Summon:  Summon supporting reinforcements to help you in a conflict.


You can spend Fate to Push;

Spend 1 Fate to gain one additional Resolution for every level of Spark Attribute that you have.


5 – Close the Scene

Once the Question has been answered, any participant may close the scene by stating “And we move on.”  Proceed to open the next Scene.


You can spend Fate to Preview;

Spend Fate to narrate a conflict in the near future where you will need an Attribute or Talent. You will gain that Attribute or Talent just in time when that conflict occurs in the next Scene.


Amaranthine – The Chess Game Eternal

So, Machine Age Productions will be releasing a brand new RPG at GenCon 2011 by the title of Amaranthine“Amaranthine is a game about yesterday, now, and forever. Amaranthine are immortal, destined to reincarnate from here until eternity. They’ve lived many lives before, and every other immortal they meet, they’ve met before.”

I pitched in on the Kickstarter drive and in honour of their release, I volunteered to produce a hack of the game system.   This is a hack of their resolution system, which replaces the dice with a chess board.  I hope some of you immortals enjoy playing the eternal game!

You can find it here and it is released under a Creative Commons, Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share Alike License.  This hack was produced by Genesis of Legend Publishing, but I chose to cede all rights to Machine Age Productions

Amaranthine Chess Hack PDF

Have fun and feel free to leave a comment if you have any thoughts concerning the hack.

Spark Icon

Third major revision outline

I am half producing this post simply to spur myself on to my design work.   This may only be interesting to a few diehards, but I figure that it is better to post something then nothing.  If anyone in the crowd has questions, comments or death threats, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

I have finished off a series of 3-4 story structured playtests which have been remarkably useful on my end.   Feedback from the three players (M., C. and J.) has led to me trashing the Glory mechanics where I had given thousands of words of examples with no consistency and unique mechanical effects.    I mentioned this a while back, but I thought that it should be emphasized seeing as it has been one of the most significant changes.  While I am not at the stage of a real externally playable draft, I am getting closer.

One of the other modifications that I am making is based on Vincent Baker’s innovative work “Apocalypse World“.   He decided to explicitly name all types of action as discretely named and very specific Moves.  In that game. players and GM’s alike are restricted to certain listed moves.    While I won’t be moving to that extreme with Spark, I am targeting a set of ~14 different “Resolutions”.  Most of the Resolutions performed can be done through mundane means, such as causing Damage or digging a hole.   Some of the Resolutions can be limited to the use of supernatural or superhuman Powers, such as the ability to Resurrect a character or to Transform into a wolf.    I am planning on tossing all of these into the old Powers Chapter, which will now deal with everything _after_ the dice have been rolled and counted.   My working title for this is the “Resolution” Chapter which may mess up some of my art as commissioned.    Oh well, I knew going into this that early art commissions were foolish.

This is what the new outline of the free / players content looks like;

Chapter 1: Character which focuses on exactly the process and traits used in Character Creation.

Chapter 2: Task which focuses on the task resolution system that involves rolling the dice.

Chapter 3: Resolution which focusses on the interaction of the dice roll and the world.

Chapter 4: Story which provides tools for enhancing the narrative, using character-focused tools such as Fate, GM techniques and storytelling principles.

Now, back to the revision process!

New arrivals in the realm of Spark

Two recent events in the world of the Spark RPG. Firstly, I have commissioned an excellent piece of art from Gabriel Verdon which I will be using for the Cover of the book. Lovely little piece and I thank him for his efforts. I will hold off from posting the image thus far, chiefly because I have yet to add the text. Keep tuned for more!

I am now fairly certain that I will be excising the old Glory mechanics. It used to be a very wishy-washy catch-all which would cover any weird drawback or special capability, but it grated on my design sensibilities. Instead, I am adapting the existing trait names and have fashioned a standard mechanic. It’s a variation of explicit aspect compels mechanics which were explained by Rob Donoghue found right here. Players declare situations where they are particularly capable or feeble. They will get very significant bonuses when they try those actions. Things are finally coming together, I believe. Certainly eager to see if it works out in playtesting.

So have any of you been inspired by Rob Donaghue’s insights?