Archive for the 'Razed' Category

I Played Razed at Gen Con

Twice at Gen Con I got to run Razed for players new to the game and, in many cases, new to the Gumshoe system. Each game was an eye-opener.

Before I type another word, though, I’ve got to heap praise on the things that made these game sessions possible: Games on Demand and a slew of curious, open-minded gamers. Games on Demand was a hub of activity at Gen Con, busy with bodies throughout the show. If you’re unaware, Games on Demand is a matchmaking program that pairs players in search of games with GMs looking to run games. Many of these games are independent titles and some few of them (like Razed) are playtests. As a GM, you volunteer your time in one or more two-hour slots, list a bunch of games you feel comfortable running, and gather players from the gamers that assemble on the slotted hours—organic, easy, effective.

For example, in two different slots, when we had players looking to play something, they knew not what, I offered up Razed. In each slot I nabbed a full table of four or more players, based off this simple pitch:

Razed is a post-apocalyptic survival and investigation game forthcoming from Pelgrane Press.

In both cases, hands went up before I finished the pitch. So that’s the second thing I want to heap praise on: the willingness of gamers at Gen Con to try new games. A mighty thanks to all of you who played in my Razed sessions, truly.

Now, let’s talk about how my eyes were opened and what I saw.

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Razed’s New Playtest Character Sheet

Razed's Temporary Character Sheet

Razed's Temporary Character Sheet

I’ve gone through and made some revisions to Razed’s character sheet as part of the next phase of in-house playtesting. I have hopes that this will be the last major phase of testing before I can start nailing down parts of the manuscript.

In this version of the sheet you can see a still-in-flux ability list (Geology probably will not survive this round of play, for example), an augmented version of the Civility Meter, and a hint at how the equipment system might or might not work (depending on how playtests go this time). And, of course, you can see that Health and Stability are intact Gumshoe-system components in this game. So, too, Drives are in play. Much of this falls under the if-it-ain’t-broke theory.

Yes, the sheet uses a mix of typefaces and some really haphazard design styles. This is intentional. Razed is meant to be a distressed mismatch. Still, don’t fret — this isn’t what the final sheet is going to look like. Not quite.

What this sheet doesn’t show off are a few wrinkles to the action and combat mechanics, some of which I’ve successfully tested thus far and some of which I’m about to test for the first time. The system is still straightforward, but it offers just a few more tactical options and decision points than traditional Gumshoe systems to date. I think it’s good, but we’ll see yet.

We’re reaching that point where I need to start turning my paper notes (kept in a Moleskine cahier and loose sheets of paper) into a more formal manuscript for vetting and perusal by wiser minds than mine. I have about a third of the manuscript already typed up and expect the rest of it to happen quickly, once I can get a few other projects off of my desk. I’m eager to get Razed in front of people — to make it a real, live game.

Razed: The Changes Wrought

This is part of a series of posts looking at the nature of the cataclysmic events that shook and tumbled the world of my forthcoming post-apocalyptic survival game, Razed. This time out I muse about some ways that a post-apocalyptic world changes things… and people.

These features reference various popular media sources, especially movies, and shamelessly spoil them in the process. So: Beware of Spoilers Beyond This Point.

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My (Least and) Favorite Things About the GUMSHOE System

Q: What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of the GUMSHOE system?

A: When I first got this question, I thought it was asking about my favorite and least favorite aspects of writing for the GUMSHOE system. That’s not really the question, though, is it?What I dig about the system is its simplicity and focus on player choices. Every action brings with it a choice of approach (which Investigative ability do I use?) or of cost (how many General ability points do I spend?) and I think those are strong hooks. My instinct, while working on RAZED, has been to add some complexity to the system, a little more heft or a new dimension, but in playtesting I find that’s maybe not such a good idea. I continue to experiment with adding little wrinkles to the game, but its simplicity is elegant and I don’t want to fuck with that too much.

Another thing I dig about writing for GUMSHOE games? Writing for them is like writing straight-up prose—or a letter to the GM. It doesn’t require strict styling or technical-style writing. I can be frank or florid, depending on the needs of a particular passage, and still get the important game elements across clearly. On the one hand, this means there’s no crutch to lean on—I can’t rely on mechanics to do much descriptive work for me—but this also means I can move around without lugging crutches with me.

My least favorite aspect of the system is easy to answer, though. I don’t like seeing General ability points get wasted. I’ve seen players spend three points to auto-hit a Difficulty 4 action, then roll a five or six, and get frustrated that those points were “blown.” I don’t like seeing a player spend two points and then whiff with the dice and regret it. Now their character is weaker and they have nothing to show for it. It’s bad enough to miss a roll and have a turn wasted, without losing points from your future chances, I sometimes think. This isn’t a game-breaking problem, by any means, but it can be a source of frustration.

(In RAZED, that frustration is a feature, not a bug, because it helps create desperation as the PCs battle super-tough alien robots and such—every failed roll reinforces the sense of dwindling resources and is an opportunity for the GM to emphasize the toughness of the enemy.)

Without knowing who you are, anonymous reader, what’s your favorite or least favorite aspect of the GUMSHOE system?

Two Sites’ Worth of Apocalyptic Visions

Scientific American offers up a short survey of apocalyptic visions to supplement their September issue, which I haven’t seen yet. Did your favorite apocalypse make the list?

Meanwhile, Web Urbanist offers up another slew and a half of apocalyptic visions, with lots of great (and horrific) imagery to back it up. I’ve had this tab open for more than a week. I just keep going back to it as I make notes for Razed.

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