[19:35] <+RodneyThompson> I’m Rodney Thompson, I’ve been designing games professionally for about 15 years. I worked as a freelancer for a while, then worked at Wizards of the Coast as a designer in RPG R&D for almost a decade.
[19:35] <+RodneyThompson> I’ve worked on a lot of different games, like Star Wars Saga Edition, D&D (4e supplements, 5e core rules), Lords of Waterdeep, Tyrants of the Underdark, etc.
[19:35] <+RodneyThompson> Now I work at Bungie on the Destiny franchise.
[19:37] <+RodneyThompson> My game that I’m currently funding on Kickstarter is Dusk City Outlaws, a tabletop RPG where the players play a band of criminals drawn from the 8 cartels that rule over the underworld of the city of New Dunhaven. The players are given a Job, and must plan, set up, and execute a heist, long con, etc. in order to succeed.
[19:37] <+RodneyThompson> The game comes as a box set, and is designed to be pulled off the shelf and played with no prep time.
[19:37] <+RodneyThompson> And I think that covers the basics. (done)
[19:37] <~Dan> Thanks, RodneyThompson!
[19:37] <~Dan> The floor is open to questions!
[19:38] <~Dan> Would you categorize this as a fantasy setting?
[19:38] <+RodneyThompson> Yes, absolutely. I like to call it “Renaissance Venice, on the scale of modern-day New York City.”
[19:38] <+RodneyThompson> It’s a setting with alchemy and sorcery, though the latter is rare and costly.
[19:39] <+RodneyThompson> But I wanted it to be a big, wide-open setting so that lots of different stories would work well. The game’s pretty sandboxy, and I wanted the setting to accommodate that.
[19:39] <+RodneyThompson> (done)
[19:40] <+Asher> How concerned is the game with tactics? Do you play on a grid?
[19:40] <+RodneyThompson> No, it’s not a tactical game. In fact, it’s quite the opposite of that.
[19:41] <+RodneyThompson> The game is very narrative-focused, and actually a lot of its scenes are played out from a higher level, abstracting away a lot of time passing and the like.
[19:41] <+RodneyThompson> Since the focus is on the players coming up with a plan and putting into motion, I wanted something that could accommodate a high-level overview that occasionally drills down.
[19:42] <+RodneyThompson> For drama scenes (combat, chase scenes, intense dramatic moments) it can go into a turn-based format, but there’s no concerns about movement speeds, positioning, etc.
[19:43] <&Le_Squide> What are the basic mechanics like?
[19:43] <+RodneyThompson> Instead, it’s more about the players coming up with good descriptions, leveraging their advantages, and using their special abilities.
[19:43] <+RodneyThompson> Mechanically, the core system is pretty lean.
[19:43] <+RodneyThompson> Task resolution is percentile-dice based for pass/fail; all of your skills list a percentage chance of success, and you’re trying to roll under that number.
[19:44] <&Le_Squide> Any particular reason you went with a system with a flat probability distribution?
[19:44] <+RodneyThompson> Instead of adjusting your chance of success based on the situation, the Judge can give you advantage dice or challenge dice, which are custom dice that come with the game and that represent positive and negative circumstances surrounding the roll.
[19:45] <+RodneyThompson> The advantage/challenge dice have symbols on them (boons/drawbacks, respectively) that represent upside and downside to the outcome. So, in addition to pass/fail, you also have additional positive or negative outcomes that can be a part of the roll.
[19:45] <+RodneyThompson> I think of it kind of like a streamlined version of symbol-based dice systems, like FFG Star Wars.
[19:46] <~Dan> Interesting approach. I do have a concern, though.
[19:46] <+RodneyThompson> As for why: The biggest reason is that I wanted players to be able to easily understand their chances of success on any given task intuitively, and without having to go through the translation layer of understanding probabilities or varying difficulties.
[19:47] <+RodneyThompson> I wanted players to be able to quickly and easily understand what they were good at, and how good, and percentages are the easiest way to make that happen.
[19:47] <~Dan> If difficulty is expressed in complication, is there anything beyond GM fiat for PCs attempting what should be ridiculously difficult actions and having a standard chance of success?
[19:47] <+RodneyThompson> There are caveats for the two extremes (so difficult that you can’t possibly do this, so easy you can’t possibly fail) that basically say, “Don’t bother rolling the dice.”
[19:48] * ~Dan nods
[19:48] <+RodneyThompson> For anything else, though, it all comes down to the chance of success and then drawbacks from the challenge dice.
[19:49] <~Dan> What elements go into character creation?
[19:49] <+RodneyThompson> I definitely made the design decision not to vary difficulty. I assume the characters are professionals, and I want them to try crazy things and know that they stand a good chance of getting what they want…even if it doesn’t work out exactly as they planned.
[19:49] <+RodneyThompson> Character creation is very streamlined at its base.
[19:50] <+RodneyThompson> Your character is made up of two aspects, which are on cardboard mats that you lay in front of you. You choose one cartel from among 8, and one specialty from among 16.
[19:50] <~Dan> (Howdy, Ray!)
[19:50] <+RodneyThompson> If you’re playing a campaign, the campaign rules I just posted today also have you choose a conflict tied to your character’s personality or history at the time of character creation.
[19:50] <+Ray> (Hey! Computer was comandeered.)
[19:51] <+RodneyThompson> I also have a stretch goal planned for a “Deck of Quirks” that provides a simple third axis for customization, but it’s not essential and who knows if we’ll get there.
[19:51] <+RodneyThompson> (done)
[19:52] <~Dan> How are skill levels determined?
[19:52] <&Le_Squide> Could you give us an example of how the advantage/challenge dice work?
[19:52] <+RodneyThompson> It’s all built into your specialty. Every specialty has one skill at 90%, a few skills at 80%, a few skills at 65%, and then Anything Else at 50%. So, you get a 50-50 shot at anything you don’t have specifically called out as a skill.
[19:53] <+RodneyThompson> A few specialties have some extra skills, all in the 65% and 80% tiers.
[19:53] <+RodneyThompson> Sure!
[19:53] <+RodneyThompson> So, let’s say you’re playing a Forgotten sharpshooter, and you want to take a shot at a fleeing enemy with your crossbow.
[19:54] <+RodneyThompson> On your sheet, you’ve got Shoot Someone at 90%. So, you know that 9 times out of 10, you’re going to hit this guy.
[19:54] <+RodneyThompson> But it’s dark, and he’s dashing through the shadows. Also, it’s raining outside, and it’s messing with your visibility. So, as the Judge, I decide to give you two challenge dice on the roll, one for each of those mitigating factors.
[19:55] <+RodneyThompson> On the bright side, you’ve got an elevated position on him, a nest you’ve staked out, and have a long time to line up your shot, so I give you an advantage die, too.
[19:55] <+RodneyThompson> So, you roll your percentile dice, advantage die, and challenge die all at once.
[19:56] <+RodneyThompson> Let’s say you succeed with an 85 on your roll, but you roll one boon (on the advantage die), and two drawbacks (the two challenge dice).
[19:56] <+RodneyThompson> The boon and one drawback cancel each other out, so we’re left with success, with one drawback.
[19:57] <+RodneyThompson> So, you shoot the guy. Hooray! You got him. Unfortunately, he manages to get right to the edge of the canal, and when you shoot him he tumbles over the edge into the water, and starts drifting down the canal right toward a gondola manned by some members of the City Watch on patrol. If you don’t find a way to keep the body from reaching them…
[19:57] <+RodneyThompson> …it might tip them off to your presence.
[19:58] <+RodneyThompson> Make sense?
[19:59] <+Motulev> that mechanic reminds me very much of FFGs Edge of the Empire dice mechanics
[19:59] <~Dan> Hmm… On a related note, how does combat work?
[19:59] <+RodneyThompson> Yeah, it’s definitely inspired by that kind of mechanic. It’s just much streamlined here, and paired with percentile success/failure.
[20:00] <+RodneyThompson> It’s not too far removed from core task resolution, just with a few differences.
[20:00] <~Dan> (Welcome to #rpgnet, Guest73! You can set your name with the /nick command. 🙂 )
[20:00] <+RodneyThompson> First, it uses a kind of “Side initiative” system, where all of the Judge-controlled characters go, then all of the player characters go in any order they want, then back to the Judge, etc.
[20:01] <+RodneyThompson> Second, some enemies also have luck (the hit point-like resource all player characters have). Damage is equal to the number you rolled on your percentile dice, and weapons add a flat bonus on top of that.
[20:01] <+RodneyThompson> So, in my example above, rolling an 85 on a hand crossbow attack (+30 damage) would deal 115 damage.
[20:02] <+RodneyThompson> Not all enemies have luck, though. Some are minions. They’re grouped into squads, who all act as a unit, make a single attack roll, and deal damage based on the number of minions in the squad.
[20:02] <+RodneyThompson> When you score a hit against a squad of minions, you reduce it’s size by one; if you have any advantage dice and roll any boons on that attack roll, you also take out one additional minion for each boon rolled.
[20:03] <~Dan> How does that work if you’re doing something that couldn’t possibly take out more than one target at a time? Like the aforementioned crossbow attack, for example.
[20:03] <+RodneyThompson> Physical attacks aren’t the only way to deplete someone’s luck; basically, anything can be an attack. Luck is a little more abstracted than standard hit points, and represents energy, resolve, and fortune all together.
[20:04] <+RodneyThompson> It’s up to the player to describe what happens in a way that makes sense. It’s definitely a “roll and describe what happens based on the outcome of the dice” system.
[20:05] <+RodneyThompson> So, in the crossbow example, it could be as simple as shooting one guy, and when he drops he tangles up two more who go down at the same time.
[20:06] <+RodneyThompson> Or maybe you were two-fisting crossbows, or maybe your shot doesn’t hit someone directly but instead shoots a lynchpin that collapses the wooden bridge they are standing on, etc.
[20:06] * ~Dan nods
[20:06] <~Dan> I see.
[20:07] <+RodneyThompson> (done) btw. 🙂
[20:07] <~Dan> To backtrack a bit, do characters have attributes, or just skills?
[20:07] <~Dan> 🙂
[20:08] <+RodneyThompson> Just skills and benefits. Benefits are exceptions-based abilities that give you all the rules you need to use them right there on the page. Most characters have at least a couple of benefits, though some are more impactful than others, in which case a specialty might only have one big one.
[20:08] <+RodneyThompson> (done)
[20:08] <~Dan> Would that cover things like exceptional strength to cause more damage in HTH combat?
[20:09] <+RodneyThompson> Yeah
[20:09] <+RodneyThompson> So, there’s a specialty called the Brawler
[20:10] <+RodneyThompson> Brawlers are really good at using any kind of melee weapon. Any kind of melee weapon gets a +30 damage bonus instead of whatever they would normally have for it.
[20:10] <~Dan> Gotcha.
[20:11] <+RodneyThompson> The Brawler also gets to make extra attacks, and gets to go first in every fight.
[20:11] <~Dan> Wow. That’s pretty powerful.
[20:11] <+RodneyThompson> The assassin gets extra advantage dice automatically when attacking squads of minions, and takes out two minions for every boon rolled.
[20:11] <+RodneyThompson> The sharpshooter gets to cancel two drawbacks on any roll made to shoot something.
[20:11] <+RodneyThompson> Things like that.
[20:11] * ~Dan nods
[20:12] <+RodneyThompson> I definitely wanted these character to excel at whatever it is they are supposed to be good at.
[20:12] <+RodneyThompson> No small-time bonuses; I want things to have a big impact. Otherwise, you’ll forget them.
[20:12] <~Dan> Sure.
[20:12] <+RodneyThompson> Have we lost everyone, or does it just shuffle folks into Idlers if they haven’t typed for a while?
[20:13] <~Dan> The latter.
[20:13] <+RodneyThompson> Cool
[20:13] <+Motulev> Dan is the professional asker of questions, we’re just along for the ride
[20:13] <~Dan> Beyond that, it’s difficult to tell who’s actually paying attention. 🙂
[20:13] <+Asher> You mentioned that picking a faction is part of character creation. How much work would it be to play this game but use a custom world?
[20:13] <+RodneyThompson> That’s cool, just checking. 😀 Didn’t want to be boring folks to tears.
[20:14] <+RodneyThompson> Good question, Asher.
[20:14] <+RodneyThompson> So, there’s two answers.
[20:14] <+RodneyThompson> Right out of the box, it’s meant to be played in this world. You could absolutely reskin it on the fly, but I think that might be a little confusing at times. The character aspect sheets have art on them, and the mechanics are pretty tightly tied to the setting.
[20:14] <+RodneyThompson> However!
[20:16] <+RodneyThompson> For Kickstarter backers, you can basically get an add-on that will have InDesign templates for literally everything in the game. So, if you wanted to run the game as a thief-y version of Vampire, you could tweak the cartel sheets to instead be Vampire clan sheets, and then use the normal specialties.
[20:16] <+RodneyThompson> And now that I say that, Vampire Crime Syndicate sounds like a rad campaign.
[20:16] <~Dan> Indeed!
[20:17] <+Asher> heck yes 🤘
[20:17] <~Dan> How would you do something like that? Have supernatural special abilities associated with various groups and specialties?
[20:17] <&Le_Squide> So, speaking of the world, could you talk about the eight cartels?
[20:17] <+RodneyThompson> So the cartels are really tightly tied to the setting, but overall the rules are pretty lean, so I think the trick with setting hacking the game isn’t mechanical, but dealing with the setting trappings that are right on the table in front of you.
[20:18] <+RodneyThompson> Dan: Probably, yeah. Reskin the cartels as clans, maybe give each clan a unique supernatural ability that’s broadly applicable, and you’re pretty much there.
[20:18] <+RodneyThompson> Get some art and swap it out for what’s there and you’re good.
[20:19] <+RodneyThompson> Mechanically, the cartels contribute one exceptions-based ability, tell you where in the city you stand out (which might not need reskinning at all), and tell you things that you know about (free info you get on each Job you do), which might need some reskinning.
[20:19] <+RodneyThompson> Le_Squide: Sure!
[20:20] <~Dan> (wb, Ray)
[20:20] <+RodneyThompson> Each cartel is sort of this big, bright, colorful organization that gives you your connection to the setting.
[20:20] <+RodneyThompson> I was very inspired by how Legend of the Five Rings clans tie into the setting so well, and really appreciate the strength of their designs.
[20:21] <+RodneyThompson> Each cartel is inspired by a pop culture criminal group of one kind or another, and each one is tailored to speak to a particular play style or player need.
[20:21] <+RodneyThompson> For example, the Wardens of the Night (sort of your prototypical outlaws/anarchist/rebels against the Crown) are one-part Robin Hood, one-part urban rangers, and are designed to give you a cartel to play in if you want to play someone who could be considered a “hero” type
[20:22] <+RodneyThompson> The Circle is sort of inspired by the Hollywood version of the Russian mafia, and they’re very physical and are designed to give you a cartel to play in if you want to get your hands dirty and be the “muscle” on the Job.
[20:23] <+RodneyThompson> The Family is “Hollywood Italian mafia” inspired, and they’re absolutely geared toward someone who wants the classic mob gangster feeling.
[20:24] <+RodneyThompson> The Forgotten draw some of their inspiration from the movie The Warriors, with all the various disparate street gangs; it’s also the cartel to choose if you want to be an independent thief, someone who doesn’t tie as tightly to the cartels.
[20:24] <+RodneyThompson> There’s always that player that says, “I don’t want to be a part of your system.” They play ronin in L5R; they’d play Forgotten in Dusk City Outlaws.
[20:24] <~Dan> (“Forgooootten… Come out to plaaa-yaaay!…”)
[20:24] <+RodneyThompson> Exactly!
[20:25] <+RodneyThompson> If you play a member of the Forgotten, you even get to name your street gang and come up with your gang uniform.
[20:25] <~Dan> Awesome.
[20:25] <+RodneyThompson> Let’s see here.
[20:25] <~Dan> I’m playing the Croquet Furies!
[20:26] <+RodneyThompson> The Mummers are pretty heavily inspired by the “Dashing rogue” archetype, the Edema Ruh from Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles books. They’re for the actor players, people who like to ham it up and put themselves on stage.
[20:26] <+RodneyThompson> They’re actors, musicians, bards, etc.
[20:27] <+RodneyThompson> The Red Lotus Society draws a lot on Hong Kong action movies for inspiration; if you want to play a character that would step right out of a John Woo movie, that’s your cartel. They have guns.
[20:28] <~Dan> Are they the only ones who do?
[20:28] <+RodneyThompson> The Vespers are your high-class criminals, your pseudo-nobles, inspired by things like, “The Thomas Crown Affair” and other rub-elbows-with-the-aristocracy types.
[20:28] <+RodneyThompson> They have cornered the black market on firearms, yes, but they do sell to the other cartels from time to time.
[20:28] <+RodneyThompson> But…it’s gonna cost ya.
[20:28] <+RodneyThompson> Oh, I skipped one.
[20:29] <+RodneyThompson> The Gravediggers are the cartel of creepy guys. They control the city’s graveyards, funeral parlors, mausoleums, etc. They’re good for if you want to play a character that looks like he/she comes out of a 19th Century London setting. Plague doctors, and the like.
[20:30] <+RodneyThompson> I think that covers them all.
[20:30] <+RodneyThompson> (done)
[20:30] <~Dan> How well do the cartels get along with each other?
[20:32] <+RodneyThompson> The eight cartels operate under what’s known as the Arrangement. It basically is an agreement between the cartels that says, “Listen, we’re all in this to get rich. You keep to your turf, I’ll keep to mine, and we’ll all scam the law-abiding citizens.” No open gang warfare, though the cartels are allowed to bicker and fight over turf just a little bit.
[20:32] <+RodneyThompson> Nothing too big though.
[20:32] <+RodneyThompson> There is, however, a “ninth” cartel that does NOT abide by the Arrangement: the Blooded.
[20:33] <+RodneyThompson> The Blooded are bad guys to your bad guys. They are enemies of all of the cartels. They refuse to abide by the Arrangement, prey on the eight cartels, try to sabotage and subvert them (and snipe their scores from time to time).
[20:33] <+RodneyThompson> They are also not subtle, don’t have a problem with collateral damage or casualties, and are generally assholes.
[20:34] <+RodneyThompson> The cartels do compete with each other, though, and once a year all of the cartels send representatives to the Thiefmoot, where turf is renegotiated based on who has had a better year, who is currently in strong standing, etc.
[20:34] <+RodneyThompson> (done)
[20:35] <~Dan> Is it expected that PC groups will include members from different cartels?
[20:35] <+RodneyThompson> Yes, absolutely.
[20:36] <+RodneyThompson> In fact, that’s the default assumption.
[20:36] <~Dan> (Howdy, Doctor!)
[20:36] <+RodneyThompson> One of the ways the cartels enforce the Arrangement is by having these multi-cartel crews that are put together for big Jobs.
[20:36] <&Doctor> (hey hey. Links so I can get caught up?)
[20:36] <~Dan> (Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/481478805/dusk-city-outlaws?ref=nav_search)https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/481478805/dusk-city-outlaws?ref=nav_search
[20:36] <+RodneyThompson> Every cartel who participates gets a cut of the score, so everyone gets a little richer.
[20:37] <+RodneyThompson> (done)
[20:37] <~Dan> Speaking of adversaries, who else are the PCs up against?
[20:38] <+RodneyThompson> Well, there’s the Crown, which is the shorthand term for the law enforcement of the city.
[20:38] <+RodneyThompson> The City Watch, their investigators, soldiers if things get too out of hand, etc.
[20:39] <+RodneyThompson> There are the Blooded, the asshole enemies-to-everyone criminals.
[20:39] <+RodneyThompson> There are private security forces, hired by nobles and merchants to protect against just these kinds of thieves.
[20:39] <+RodneyThompson> There are the Dredgers, a Pinkertons-like detective agency that have a well-deserved reputation for success against the criminals of the city.
[20:40] <+RodneyThompson> There are the Endless Dawn, a group of citizens who take the law into their own hands; they’re part vigilantes, and part neighborhood watch. Mostly they’re annoying busybodies, but without the training and restraint of the City Watch they can be recklessly dangerous.
[20:41] <+RodneyThompson> There’s the Cult of a Thousand Eyes, a group of sorcery-obssessed individuals from all walks of life. They often create trouble with their reckless use of sorcery, and are often seeded among other antagonist groups…and among the cartels.
[20:42] <+RodneyThompson> The Spiders, the city’s secret police force. They used to be a cartel of criminals, but when the Arrangement went into place they betrayed the cartels, turned Crown, and sold out their fellow criminals in exchange for pardons. They now use their inside knowledge of the criminal world to screw up the cartels’ plans.
[20:42] <+RodneyThompson> Those are the big ones.
[20:42] <+RodneyThompson> (done)
[20:43] <~Dan> Speaking of sorcery, can the PCs be sorcerers?
[20:43] <+RodneyThompson> That’s an interesting question.
[20:43] <&Doctor> (did the mechanics question happen yet?)
[20:43] <~Dan> (Yup. The video does a good job of explaining it.)
[20:43] <~Dan> (Howdy, SirGene!)
[20:44] <+RodneyThompson> Right now, no. However I don’t mind telling you that one of the stretch goals I have planned is for eight more specialties, one tied to each cartel, that each specialize in a different kind of sorcery.
[20:44] <~Dan> As things stand, do you have a magic system for NPC sorcerers? Or is magic more hand-wavey?
[20:44] <+SirGene> I guess I’m late to this party.
[20:45] <~Dan> No worries, SirGene. 🙂
[20:45] <&Doctor> So, I guess my question is… why make this game? Or rather, “why does this game need to be made?” What can you do in this game that you just can’t do in others or where does it succeed when others fail?
[20:46] <+RodneyThompson> Sorcery has no overarching magic system. Each instance of sorcery is unique. I like to think of it kind of like how magic is depicted in Game of Thrones; humanity just has too narrow of a window into it to be able to understand it.
[20:47] <+RodneyThompson> Doctor: I wanted to make a game that was able to be pulled off the shelf and played without prep, something that could be played like a board game in that you could decide to play it on the spur of the moment and be playing in the amount of time it would take to set up a board game.
[20:48] <+RodneyThompson> I wanted to build something from the ground-up that had mechanics that were easy to understand, but that had lots of opportunities for dramatic twists and turns.
[20:48] <&Doctor> What do you think uniquely positions this game to do that?
[20:49] <~Dan> (Howdy, Xaos! Got the book today! Thanks!)
[20:49] <+RodneyThompson> I also wanted a game where the players drove the action, but where they had some guidance, some goal to work toward that kept them from being paralyzed by infinite possibilities. Similarly, I wanted it to be a game where the players were dealing with the real possibility of failure, where their cleverness was one of their main tools for success.
[20:51] <+RodneyThompson> I think it’s the combination of the streamlined narrative dice system, which carries a lot of the weight of providing twists and turns in the spur of the moment, along with character abilities that give players a lot of control over the narrative, plus…
[20:51] <+RodneyThompson> …the Judge resource, heat, which makes it easier to introduce complications and plot twists mid-session without needing to plan them out in advance.
[20:52] <+RodneyThompson> I think of it like a triad of three simple systems (the characters, the dice, and heat) that put control in the hands of the players, reduce the need for advanced prep, and still provide dramatic moments.
[20:53] <&Doctor> So does the system accommodate longer term campaigns or is it more of “it _can_ but that’s not what it’s meant for” kind of thing?
[20:53] <+RodneyThompson> I’ve also tried to make this game very friendly to new players (both new to the game, and new to RPGs) and I think it is going to be the kind of thing that allows people who have less experience with game to step into a more narrative RPG experience.
[20:54] <+RodneyThompson> Campaign Play: I actually posted the first preview of campaign rules to the Kickstarter today!
[20:54] <+SirGene> I came in late, watched the Kickstarter. Is this pregenerated Characters?
[20:54] <&Doctor> Also, unrelated, Saga was so good. It makes me sad that the system didn’t spread to other settings.
[20:54] <&Doctor> So good
[20:55] <+RodneyThompson> Campaign play basically focuses around three things: XP (which you get for finishing Jobs and accomplishing extra goals, and you spend it as a resource in-play to represent your crew’s spreading reputation), recurring characters (who players or Judges alike can reintroduce in subsequent Jobs, and who have a bigger and bigger impact each time)…
[20:56] <+RodneyThompson> …and recurring storylines (called Story Conflicts) in the campaign rules. Story Conflicts represent some conflict in the game world that your character cares about; it develops over the course of multiple Jobs; and when your story conflict gets resolved, you get a new character benefit out of it.
[20:57] <+RodneyThompson> Eventually you’ll reach the point where your character gets to retire from the campaign, and become a part of the game world. You’ll choose a final progression benefit, which could be anything from “You die in a blaze of glory and become legend”
[20:57] <+RodneyThompson> to “You get tapped to become a member of the Black Council”
[20:57] <+RodneyThompson> SirGene: It’s more like Gamma World (the one from 2010)-style character creation, pick two things and combine them.
[20:58] <+SirGene> k
[20:58] <+RodneyThompson> Doctor: Thanks! I loved working on Saga Edition. My only thing I wish I could have done was make it easier to GM.
[20:59] <+RodneyThompson> (done)
[20:59] <&Doctor> I GMed it on a 150 player chat… it wasn’t -that- hard… Fool’s luck was but of a problem but… *saves it for later*
[21:00] <~Dan> Are there any supernatural threats other than sorcerers?
[21:00] <+RodneyThompson> Dan: Yes. Mostly on a case-by-case basis.
[21:00] <+RodneyThompson> And mostly built into scenarios.
[21:00] <~Dan> Oh? Like what?
[21:01] <+RodneyThompson> For example, in The Gunpowder Job (which the guys from the Saving Throw Show ran on their stream on Tuesday night), one of the characters has a pet Night Hound, basically a sorcerously-enhanced hunting dog that is a more meaty opponent.
[21:01] <+RodneyThompson> In The Canal Job (the one that’s in the print-and-play), there’s an opponent who has sacrificed part of herself for a supernatural sixth sense.
[21:02] <+RodneyThompson> I’m trying to make sure each scenario has at least one sorcerous element in it (just a dash of sorcery, here and there)
[21:02] <+RodneyThompson> (done)
[21:02] * ~Dan nods
[21:02] <~Dan> I believe you mentioned alchemy as well?
[21:03] <+RodneyThompson> Yes!
[21:03] <+RodneyThompson> Alchemy is the big fantasy element of the setting.
[21:03] <+RodneyThompson> It’s everywhere.
[21:03] <~Dan> What can that accomplish, and is it available to PCs?
[21:04] <+RodneyThompson> One of the specialties is Alchemist, and the ability to create alchemical objects is very, very wide open. The player basically gets to make up whatever alchemical object they want, within reason, and introduce it into the scenario.
[21:04] <+RodneyThompson> The Traveler’s Guide (the setting book that comes in the boxed set) provides some simple guidelines and examples of what is true about alchemy in the setting.
[21:05] <+RodneyThompson> Also, even if you don’t have an alchemist, you can always go to one of the crooked alchemists in the city and get something from them, usually by spending your Influence (a resource that represents your cartel’s resources and your social connections)
[21:06] <+RodneyThompson> The print-and-play preview of the Traveler’s Guide available to Kickstarter backers actually lists a bunch of examples of alchemical objects.
[21:06] <+RodneyThompson> I sort of say that alchemy is what allows a city of its technology level to exist on its scale. Alchemy takes the place of technology in many ways.
[21:06] <+RodneyThompson> (done)
[21:06] <~Dan> Can you give us an example of an alchemical object?
[21:07] <+RodneyThompson> Sure. Here’s an example right out of the Traveler’s Guide:
[21:07] <+RodneyThompson> Donnigan’s Bridge: A compressed-powder pellet that, when dropped in water, turns the top three inches into solid ice, up to a distance of 100 feet.
[21:08] <&Doctor> So when you say “little prep time”… Is this actually something I could pick up and run in a night, or is that the ideal and the reality is that, not unlike some board games, there is a learning curve?
[21:08] <+RodneyThompson> I think there’s a learning curve the first time you play because folks need to learn the rules.
[21:09] <+RodneyThompson> I think that once people know the rules (which are not very complex; the entire rules fit in about 18 pages) it definitely can be played on a moment’s notice
[21:09] <+RodneyThompson> And those 18 pages are pretty generous with explanations
[21:10] <&Doctor> What do you think is the hardest thing to get your head around at speed?
[21:11] <+RodneyThompson> For players, not much mechanically, more understanding that it’s up to them to come up with a plan and put it into motion, and that they have to be proactive to get things done. I’ve seen that take some of my more reactive players a while to get up to speed on.
[21:11] <+SirGene> So if we were to put it in the modern setting instead of the Alchemist we would have Q and Tech Tricks. It is about color and the feel of the game.
[21:13] <+RodneyThompson> For the Judge, I think the trickiest part to get accustomed to is how to handle enemies and attacks. The game is very generous in what players can do to succeed, so sometimes when a player uses the Run Like Hell skill, you treat it like an attack; this is how you handle chase scenes.
[21:14] <+RodneyThompson> That’s a little less traditional, but I wanted a player to be able to overcome an opponent by intimidation, trickery, or combat all with about the same amount of effort and using the same mechanics.
[21:14] <~Dan> Would you like to say a bit about the hourglass mechanic?
[21:14] <&DoctorPrime> Net hickup, missed the answer
[21:14] <+RodneyThompson> SirGene: You got it.
[21:14] <~Dan> (wb, DoctorPrime)
[21:14] <+RodneyThompson> Doctor: I’ll repost answer for you.
[21:14] <&DoctorPrime> ty
[21:15] <+RodneyThompson> For players, not much mechanically, more understanding that it’s up to them to come up with a plan and put it into motion, and that they have to be proactive to get things done. I’ve seen that take some of my more reactive players a while to get up to speed on.
[21:15] <+RodneyThompson> For the Judge, I think the trickiest part to get accustomed to is how to handle enemies and attacks. The game is very generous in what players can do to succeed, so sometimes when a player uses the Run Like Hell skill, you treat it like an attack; this is how you handle chase scenes.
[21:15] <+RodneyThompson> That’s a little less traditional, but I wanted a player to be able to overcome an opponent by intimidation, trickery, or combat all with about the same amount of effort and using the same mechanics.
[21:15] <+RodneyThompson> Dan: Yeah, timer mechanic.
[21:15] <+RodneyThompson> So, in any game where the players are responsible for coming up with a plan, it could very easily devolve into hours of endless debate and analyzing the plan in excruciating detail.
[21:16] <+RodneyThompson> In Dusk City Outlaws, when the crew takes a scene to plan, you start a 15-minute timer. When the timer runs out, the scene ends, and you move on.
[21:16] <+RodneyThompson> Time is the real limited resource on the Job. You have so many days to pull things off.
[21:16] <+RodneyThompson> So, if you spend too much time planning, and not enough time doing, you’re going to run up against your time limit.
[21:17] <+RodneyThompson> But at the same time, I really wanted the players to be the ones that came up with the plan, and have that plan hinge on their cleverness and creativity. I also wanted a game where, yes, your plan could be bad, and things could go horribly awry because you didn’t take something into account.
[21:18] <+RodneyThompson> I felt like that would make the successes taste that much sweeter when there was a real possibility that the plan could be flawed.
[21:18] <+RodneyThompson> So I wanted players to actually come up with a plan and have to execute it, to be proactive and not reactive, but I also didn’t want the game to feature hours of table talk.
[21:18] <+RodneyThompson> Hence, the 15-minute timer.
[21:19] <~Dan> What happens if the plan flat-out doesn’t get finished?
[21:19] <&DoctorPrime> that transitions nicely into “How easy/common is a TPK?”
[21:19] <+RodneyThompson> Dan: You mean, what happens if time runs out?
[21:19] <+RodneyThompson> Like, on the Job?
[21:19] <+RodneyThompson> Or if it fails?
[21:20] <~Dan> The former. If time runs out before the players have come up with a plan.
[21:21] <+RodneyThompson> If the timer runs out on a planning scene, the players can choose to spend the next segment (everything is divided up into daytime and nighttime segments) and that consumes more of the time you would normally be spending putting your plan into motion.
[21:21] <+RodneyThompson> If time runs out on the Job…time runs out on the Job. Your crew doesn’t succeed, and you don’t get the XP. If you’re playing a campaign, you might still progress your Story Conflicts and might still progress recurring characters, but you wouldn’t get the XP.
[21:22] <~Dan> Makes sense.
[21:22] <~Dan> In the time remaining, is there anything we haven’t covered that you’d like to bring up?
[21:22] <+RodneyThompson> DoctorPrime: TPKs can happen (though it’s usually more a “total party gets arrested and goes to jail”), but the Judge can really control the throttle on challenges so it’s pretty hard to accidentally TPK the party.
[21:23] <~Dan> (wb, Ray_M_HGP)
[21:23] <+RodneyThompson> I will say this, though: I’ve had playtests where the players said, “Screw planning, we’re going in blind” and those have ended up with complete failure and the entire crew getting arrested.
[21:23] <+RodneyThompson> I’ve had a couple of deaths, but I don’t tend to go for the throat…mostly because busting your allies out of Jail is a pretty fun follow-up Job.
[21:24] <+RodneyThompson> Anything else I’d like to bring up? Hm. Let me see.
[21:25] <~Dan> While you’re thinking, I’ll just remind readers that my tip jar is here, for those so inclined: (Link: https://gmshoe.wordpress.com/the-gmshoes-tip-jar/)https://gmshoe.wordpress.com/the-gmshoes-tip-jar/
[21:25] <&DoctorPrime> Well, one last Q
[21:25] <+RodneyThompson> I would say, I would love it if folks got a chance to play this game. I feel like it is currently hitting a nice middle ground between traditional RPGs and independent, narrative-driven RPGs in a way that it’s made it pretty easy for me to transition some of my less experienced RPG players over to more indie games.
[21:25] <&DoctorPrime> how hard is it to manage with the digital only
[21:26] <+RodneyThompson> I think it’s pretty fun, I have a blast running it, and I really, want folks to give it a shot. Also, I can’t make the game without everyone else’s help, so there’s that. I don’t have a big company behind me on this one. 😀
[21:26] <~Dan> It sounds like a great game. I’d love a chance to review it when it comes out. 🙂
[21:27] <+RodneyThompson> The trickiest part about digital-only is the dice. The advantage/challenge dice system really work best with the custom, symbol-based dice. Also, having everything in the boxed set, kept all in one place, is a big boon to the whole “pull of the shelf and play” aspect
[21:27] <~Dan> Oh, and if you get a chance, read the log of last night’s Q&A on Cold Shadows. I think you’ll see a lot of the same design goals at play.
[21:27] <+RodneyThompson> The reason I put the character materials on cardboard mats instead of in a book is because I wanted to lean on physical components to make it super fast to hit the table
[21:28] <+RodneyThompson> So it’s definitely playable with the PDF, I just think the game hits its goals better with the physical game.
[21:28] <+RodneyThompson> OK, cool, I’ll check it out.
[21:28] <~Dan> Thanks very much for joining us, RodneyThompson!
[21:28] <&DoctorPrime> (Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gallantknightgames/cold-shadows-narrative-espionage-roleplaying?ref=user_menu)https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gallantknightgames/cold-shadows-narrative-espionage-roleplaying?ref=user_menu
[21:28] <&DoctorPrime> or something
[21:28] <+RodneyThompson> It’s been my pleasure
[21:28] <&DoctorPrime> yes. Well, I’m backing Dusk City…
[21:28] <&DoctorPrime> so it was effective.
[21:28] <~Dan> I hope you’ll feel free to come by any time you like. We’re always open. 🙂
[21:28] <+RodneyThompson> Cool, thanks!
[21:29] <+RodneyThompson> Awesome, yeah, I definitely will
[21:29] <~Dan> If you’ll give me a moment, I’ll get the log posted and link you.
[21:29] <+RodneyThompson> When I was at WotC they were very strict about us speaking publicly (as in, don’t do it) so I spent a decade not being able to engage directly with the community
[21:29] <+RodneyThompson> Time to get back into that habit