[20:27] <+CraigJudd> Hi everyone, I’m Craig Judd, a game designer from Tasmania, Australia. I released the generic toolbox PowerFrame RPG last year, but this year I’ve been working on a very different project: Blade Bind.
[20:27] <+CraigJudd> Blade Bind is a GMless storygame with a focus on PvP and drama. Everybody plays one of the Chosen, highly-motivated individuals who have forged pacts with ancient supernatural swords known as Blades.
[20:28] <+CraigJudd> The Blades offer immense power, and only another of the Chosen can stand in your way, but the Blade’s real aim is to get you to bite off more than you can chew so it can take over and use you as the instrument of its own vengeance!
[20:28] <+CraigJudd> The game is built around a card-based duelling system that uses regular playing cards, and is informed by my own HEMA experience. As a whole, the game’s spiritual ancestors are Shinobigami and Eternal Contenders.
[20:28] <+CraigJudd> (Had that ready to copy-paste! 😉 Done)
[20:28] <~Dan> Thanks, CraigJudd! The floor is open to questions!
[20:29] <~Dan> Forgive my ignorance, but what is HEMA?
[20:29] <+CraigJudd> Oh, I should probably post the Kickstarter link: (Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/546164579/blade-bind-a-storygame-of-sword-powered-tragedy)https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/546164579/blade-bind-a-storygame-of-sword-powered-tragedy
[20:29] <~Dan> Yes, good idea. 🙂
[20:29] <+CraigJudd> Historical European Martial Arts. I spent four years learning George Silver’s English backsword.
[20:30] <~Dan> Really? Interesting!
[20:30] <~Dan> So how did you work your knowledge of swordsmanship into the mechanics?
[20:32] <+CraigJudd> I tried to craft a duelling system that /feels/ like a swordfight, without getting bogged down in fiddly manoeuvres and technicalities. There are some really neat bits where I managed to find ways to represent fairly complex exchanges through simple, abstract mechanics.
[20:32] <~Dan> Actually, before we get into specifics, perhaps we should cover the core mechanic?
[20:33] <~Dan> (Howdy, RustedPortal_Jason!)
[20:34] <+CraigJudd> Hah, well, if you mean “mechanical conflict resolution”, that /is/ the Duelling system. There are no skill checks or dice rolls. The game’s set up with structured scene-order, and characters pursue their goals. If nobody opposes them, they just do it – the Blades make them /that/ powerful.
[20:35] <+CraigJudd> But if someone opposes you, and they can’t talk you out of doing something, then they have two choices: Get out of your way, or draw Blades and fight about it!
[20:35] <+CraigJudd> So Duels are the way we answer the question “who gets to decide the outcome of this scene?”
[20:35] <+RustedPortal_Jason> Hello Dan!
[20:36] <+RustedPortal_Donaven> How many swords may duel? (# of players)
[20:37] <+CraigJudd> You can definitely stage melees with multiple combatants; it tends to get a little bit slower to resolve, but it’s not uncommon for three or four people to be fighting at once. And I hope the combat system is entertaining enough that it’s no big deal to spend a little longer on resolving it.
[20:39] <+CraigJudd> As for the number of players in general, it works pretty well 3 to 6. I’ve yet to figure out if a two-player game is possible or if it will just implode.
[20:39] <~Dan> In setting terms, what do the swords do that makes their wielders so unstoppable? Is that spelled out at all?’
[20:40] <+CraigJudd> The setting itself is flexible, so to some extent it’s up to the players if they want to explore or justify that element. The game says that the Chosen are immune to conventional weaponry, and can lay waste to armies.
[20:41] <+CraigJudd> Basically, Blades are some sort of demonic entities given form by the will and wrath of human beings.
[20:41] <~Dan> Are they really as ridiculously huge as they appear in the video art?
[20:43] <+CraigJudd> Yeah, Blades are around six feet long, and all have some sort of eye-thing going on. It’s inspired visually by Final Fantasy, God Eater, Monster Hunter, and so on. And the huge swords are a metaphor for the overblown melodrama that the characters create!
[20:44] <~Dan> The eye thing is really creepy, btw.
[20:44] <+CraigJudd> Thank you, it’s meant to be unsettling! 🙂 The Bladebound picture in particular (the flaming background) is pretty eerie I think. That’s what happens if you lose control and the Blade takes over.
[20:46] <+RustedPortal_Donaven> So did I understand correctly, that this game uses a standard deck of cards? And if so, does that mean that each player would use cards?
[20:46] <+RustedPortal_Donaven> (rather, use their own deck of cards)
[20:48] <+CraigJudd> You only need a regular pack of playing cards with two Jokers. Everybody shares the same deck. I’m working on a deck of custom cards, that includes built-in setup prompts, but the postage can be a bit nuts outside US/EU.
[20:48] <+CraigJudd> Also, cards are only drawn and played during duels. You don’t maintain a hand throughout the game. Between duels, the deck gets reshuffled.
[20:50] <~Dan> What happens between duels?
[20:51] <+CraigJudd> Good question! I might go through a bit of the setup stuff first, if that’s OK, because it’ll give the rest of the game context.
[20:51] <~Dan> Sure.
[20:52] <+CraigJudd> So characters – the Chosen – are defined pretty minimally. They have no stats or skills, although the Blades have their own unique powers. The most important things you define in character creation are called Knots and Threads.
[20:53] <+CraigJudd> Knots are McGuffins; they are things that motivate the Chosen to fight. They might be NPCs like a sister or boss, but they could also be organisations or items.
[20:53] <~Dan> (Howdy, open_sketch!)
[20:53] <+open_sketch> (hiiii)
[20:54] <+CraigJudd> Threads are goals, which target Knots or other Chosen. Generally they are to do with destroying or controlling a Knot, or protecting it. (I will Destroy [X] or Nobody will Destroy [X]). Knots provide points of Will, giving more points the more complete the goal is.
[20:55] <+CraigJudd> Now, the Blades give Power, which lets you draw more cards in combat. But if your Power ever goes higher than your Will, you lose control and become Bladebound. Then the Blade gets to trash your life and kill its own true enemy.
[20:56] <+CraigJudd> SO. Between Duels, you go around the table framing scenes. Generally these are attempts to achieve one of your Threads, so you can get what you want and gain more Will.
[20:57] <+CraigJudd> BUT everyone’s Threads form a conflicting web of goals, so generally people want to stop you from getting what you want because it means destroying something of theirs. And that leads to Duels.
[20:57] <+CraigJudd> Scenes are pretty freeform, right up until the moment where someone refuses to back down.
[20:59] <+CraigJudd> Winning a fight gives you the right to either decide the fate of a Knot (control or destroy it), or else you can forcibly rewrite one of the loser’s Threads, which means you can turn enemies into allies or make them give up their quests.
[20:59] <~Dan> So fights are never to the death?
[21:01] <+CraigJudd> Only at the end, yeah. The Chosen can only be defeated by another Chosen, but the Blades are powerful enough that they can repair even mortal wounds or shield you from a deathblow or whatever. However, they also take that moment of weakness to get more control over you.
[21:01] <+RustedPortal_Donaven> Is there any victory path that includes becoming a Bladebound?
[21:02] <+CraigJudd> Yes. each Blade hates one of the other Blades, and wants to see it destroyed. Once a Blade takes over and makes their wielder Bladebound, they’ll try to make the Blade’s enmity Bladebound as well. Once they’re both in this state, they do fight to the death.
[21:03] <+CraigJudd> The Bladebound have fully unleashed their potential, so there’s no holding back. The defeated Blade shatters, and its Chosen is slain. This is the most likely end to the game.
[21:04] <+CraigJudd> What makes it a particular tragedy is, you first set up all the characters’ relationships, alliances and enmities, and THEN figure out which Blade their Blade hates. So your Blade may want to destroy your father’s Blade, for example.
[21:06] <~Dan> How exotic is the world beyond the Blade element? Is that described at all?
[21:08] <+CraigJudd> The default setting is the modern-day, with the Blades and supernatural stuff forming a sort of “shadow world”. The Blades remain in extradimensional pockets until summoned, so you don’t have to catch the bus with it on your back.
[21:08] <~Dan> Why don’t the Chosen just run roughshod over the mortal world?
[21:09] <+CraigJudd> Sometimes they do, although it’s one of those “manipulated from the shadows” kind of thing. Governments and corporations are very invested in recruiting Chosen for their own ends. It’s the sort of trope you see in anime like X:1999 and Shakugan no Shana. Also…
[21:10] <+CraigJudd> the Blades generate a Sacred Seal when drawn, which freezes time for all except the Chosen in the immediate area. Any collateral damage done during a fight vanishes when the Seal is dropped… except that the fight fundamentally affects the Chosen and the things they’re fighting over.
[21:11] <+CraigJudd> And you could totally run a game in the real world where Blades are more visible to the public. There’s a fantasy setting outline that doesn’t use the Sacred Seal option, so it’s basically a kingdom built on ruins.
[21:11] <~Dan> Ah, I see.
[21:12] <+CraigJudd> As I say in the book, the setting only matters insofar as it supports the unfolding drama, so it doesn’t really matter where you set the game as long as everyone agrees.
[21:12] <+CraigJudd> “a backdrop for melodrama writ large”, I think were my exact words.
[21:14] <~Dan> I note that you use the term “storygame” in the description. For some people, that’s a bit of a red flag. For others, it’s an honest description to distinguish a game from a standard RPG. What are your thoughts on the subject?
[21:18] <+CraigJudd> I deliberately used storygame because it’s pretty far-removed from a “traditional” RPG, and I didn’t want to attract cries of “that’s not a /real/ RPG”. I think the hyper-focus, lack of stats to describe characters, general play format and such all put it pretty firmly in the storygame zone.
[21:18] <+CraigJudd> It’s not quite as far out there as Fiasco, but it’s getting close.
[21:18] <~Dan> See, personally, I admire that approach.
[21:19] <~Dan> I see no problem at all with distinguishing between different sorts of games.
[21:19] <~Dan> Some people who write what I consider to be storygames take offense at the term, though.
[21:20] <+CraigJudd> I know some people think “storygame” means “act out a pre-planned story”, but nothing could be further from my aims. It’s my usual philosophy to set up a situation and see how it unfolds organically, guided by the rules.
[21:21] * ~Dan nods
[21:22] <+CraigJudd> I don’t think it’s all that useful to get hung up on terms. I mean, it is a game in which you roleplay. There are individual characters and a resolution system. I do describe it as an RPG as well, but I wanted to make people aware that they weren’t getting six stats and a d20.
[21:23] <~Dan> Fair enough.
[21:24] <~Dan> So what sorts of powers do the Blades have?
[21:24] <+CraigJudd> Not that I have an issue with more traditional games either! PowerFrame was a sprawling generic system with over 50 skills.
[21:25] <~Dan> Oh, certainly. 🙂
[21:25] <+CraigJudd> Blades each have three powers, called “Techniques” to avoid confusing them with Power points. They mostly let you pull of card-tricks like changing suits, or letting you play fewer or more cards than usual. Some also have more story-oriented effects, such as…
[21:26] <+CraigJudd> …letting you join a scene you wouldn’t otherwise be allowed to, or escaping a fight without consequences, or defining a Knot that absolutely can’t be destroyed this scene. Techniques cost points of Resonance, which you generate at certain points during a fight.
[21:27] <+CraigJudd> Each blade has a Technique that costs 1, 2, and 3 Resonance. So you can do lots of the smaller moves, or save up for the big one.
[21:29] <~Dan> About how long does a typical game of Blade Bind last?
[21:31] <+CraigJudd> It depends on the number of players naturally, but setup for a new group takes about an hour usually. Actually playing out the game can take anywhere from two to five hours or so. If you’re familiar with it, you can run a whole game in an evening, but you may have to split it up into two sessions.
[21:32] <+CraigJudd> It’s somewhat modelled on the Japanese RPG tendency to have games that can be set up and played in their entirety during a single day.
[21:32] <~Dan> The setup being the Knots and Threads?
[21:33] <+RustedPortal_Donaven> Is there a version of this game that could be played as the card portion of the game only? Perhaps randomizing the Knots and Threads or pre-built templates and play out the combat?
[21:33] <+CraigJudd> Yeah, you define the Chosen’s personality and physical concept, connect them together with relationships, choose a Blade, define Knots and Threads, figure out your Blade’s Enmity, and you’re good to go. Choosing Knots has traditionally been the longest step here, but I’ve tried to make it a bit faster.
[21:34] <+RustedPortal_Donaven> And the reverse of that question, a full-blown RPG that uses these mechanics of card play to resolve all actions throughout a campaign?
[21:35] <+CraigJudd> To your first question, I released a Blade Bind demo PDF on DriveThruRPG a little while ago. You don’t need to worry about Knots and Threads to play out a fight. The demo doesn’t include Resonance and Techniques, but it’s good for getting used to the duelling.
[21:35] <+CraigJudd> (Link: http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/189577/Blade-Bind-Sword-Practise?affiliate_id=492278)http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/189577/Blade-Bind-Sword-Practise?affiliate_id=492278
[21:35] <+RustedPortal_Donaven> Cool!
[21:36] <+CraigJudd> To the second, I haven’t thought of developing it into a full-blown RPG, although the swordfighting system could be a good basis for that as well. I mainly developed this as a hyper-focussed storygame as a palate-cleanser after fifteen years of working on PowerFrame. 😛
[21:37] <+CraigJudd> I went in with the idea of only including the essentials. It’s basically “What do we want?” “EPIC SWORDFIGHTS!” “When do we want ’em?” “NOW!”
[21:38] <~Dan> (Howdy, StuartYee!)
[21:38] <+StuartYee> Hey Dan!
[21:38] <~Dan> ( StuartYee: Topic: (Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/546164579/blade-bind-a-storygame-of-sword-powered-tragedy?ref=discovery)https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/546164579/blade-bind-a-storygame-of-sword-powered-tragedy?ref=discovery )
[21:39] <~Dan> ( CraigJudd: I just set up StuartYee for a Q&A of his own next month.)
[21:39] <+CraigJudd> I should go soon, unfortunately. Any last questions though? I’m a fast typer.
[21:39] <+CraigJudd> (Sweet)
[21:39] <~Dan> Hmm… Well, is there anything we haven’t covered that you’d like to bring up?
[21:40] <+StuartYee> No questions, but nice art!
[21:40] <+CraigJudd> Thanks! So last promo bit then: The KS only has a few days left, and if you Back it, you’ll be getting stuff at a lower rate than the eventual RRP.
[21:41] <~Dan> Cool. 🙂
[21:42] <~Dan> Thanks for joining us, CraigJudd!
[21:42] <+CraigJudd> Would love to say more, but…
[21:42] <~Dan> As a reminder to folks, my tip jar is here, if you’re so inclined. 🙂 (Link: https://gmshoe.wordpress.com/the-gmshoes-tip-jar/)https://gmshoe.wordpress.com/the-gmshoes-tip-jar/
[21:42] <+StuartYee> Thanks CraigJudd
[21:42] <+CraigJudd> I’ll leave it there. Thank you again for having me, Dan!
[21:42] <~Dan> If you’ll give me just a moment more, I’ll get the log posted and get you the link. 🙂