<~Dan> Please introduce yourself and your game!
<+Will_Uhl> Sure thing. My name’s Will Uhl. I’m a tabletop RPG developer from New Jersey. I’ve technically been writing games since middle school, but I started writing games good enough to show other people in the past couple years. After about a year and a half developing Mystic Lilies, I’ve brought it to Kickstarter to help turn it into a reality.
<+Will_Uhl> Mystic Lilies is a roleplaying game about vengeful witches and dark manipulation. It’s inspired in part by Monsterhearts, Touhou Project, Bayonetta, and Madoka Magica, as well as many other tales of magical drama.
<+Will_Uhl> Mystic Lilies uses a deck of standard playing cards for resolving conflicts and casting spells. Each suit is linked to a different stat: ♣Instinct, ♠Logic, ♥Will,and ♦Special – a stat that changes for each character.
<+Will_Uhl> The game is focused on social conflict. The stories it tells are not about characters working together – they are stories about flawed, emotional, and impulsive characters and the drama they create between each other. Unlike their characters, players are encouraged to work together. It doesn’t matter who wins and who loses so long as everyone’s
<+Will_Uhl> happy with the story in the end.
<+Will_Uhl> My hope is that anyone can pick up Mystic Lilies, get some friends, and have a blast telling tales of terrible witches.
<~Dan> (Welcome to #randomworlds, xColdxFusionx!)
<~Dan> Sorry, real-world distraction for a sec, there, Will_Uhl. Let me scroll back a bit.
<+Will_Uhl> No worries.
<~Dan> Okay, great! The floor is open to questions!
<+Will_Uhl> A quick little side-comment – if anyone’s wondering what witch drama would even look like, I think this scene from Bayonetta is (for one, iconic, but also) absolutely up the alley for something that could happen in a game of Mystic Lilies. (Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdnNmLXwRfI)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdnNmLXwRfI
<~Dan> (Here for the Q&A, xColdxFusionx?)
* ~Dan watches the video
<+Will_Uhl> He’s a regular from my Discord server ;D
<~Dan> Ah, cool!
<+Will_Uhl> You don’t need to watch the whole video to get the gist of it – acrobatic gunwitch bullhockey is a very valid playstyle.
<~Dan> What sorts of powers do witches have in this game?
<+Will_Uhl> Powers generally focus on encouraging certain types of narrative interactions, with each Sign (roughly akin to a player class) featuring its own approach to stirring the drama.
<+Will_Uhl> For example,
<+Will_Uhl> the Desire sign focuses on emotional manipulation. Its spells mostly play with trust – both the truth that your player characters have with each other, and the trust your fellow players have for you.
<+Will_Uhl> Meanwhile, the Fire sign has magic that incentivizes its player to act as something of a social arsonist – turning as many situations as they can into broiling drama involving everyone present, and then giving them the tools to slip away so they can stir up trouble elsewhere.
<~Dan> Are all spells interaction-based?
<+Will_Uhl> Not every spell directly interacts with another player, but they’re all ultimately vehicles for player character drama.
<+Will_Uhl> Some allow you to enter and exit scenes, commune with netherworld spirits, or change the weather.
<~Dan> So no offensive/defensive spells?
<+Will_Uhl> Oh, there are definitely offensive and defensive spells. If you manage to pull a high Clubs card, the Water sign can freeze everyone else in the scene for a minute.
<+Will_Uhl> But if you’re thinking something like a “4-damage fireball,” Mystic Lilies’ conflict system is simpler than that.
<+Will_Uhl> When player characters fight over a contested outcome, they first declare what they want out of the clash, then every player lays a card face-down. When everyone’s ready, everyone reveals their card, and the highest card wins.
<+Will_Uhl> There’s a little bit more to it than that (like adding your stat to the suit, and the way that ace cards trump face cards but fail to everything else), but that’s the main meat of it.
<~Dan> Adding your stat to the suit? Not the number?
<+Will_Uhl> Right, that’s basically what I meant. Stats are tied to the suit, so if you have a Will of 4, then every Hearts card gets a +4.
<+Will_Uhl> (A quick Q&A format clarification – are others good to hop in with their own questions, or is that held for later?)
<~Dan> (Oh, no, everyone’s free to ask questisons!)
<~Dan> (Welcome to #randomworlds, Tone!)
<~Dan> Ah, I see what you mean now, re: suits.
<~Dan> (Welcome to #randomworlds, RusselCS!)
<~Dan> (Here for the Q&A, Tone? 🙂 )
<+RusselCS> Howdy, just here to read. Unfortunate your ChanServ doesn’t relay any backlog.
<~Dan> (Yeah, sorry about that. The log will be posted immediately after the Q&A, at least.)
<~Dan> So when it comes to the stakes of challenges, how extreme can they be? Can a player state that she wants to kill an opponent and have that resolved with one card draw?
<+Will_Uhl> High-stakes conflicts work a “first to 2” or “first to 3” system, meaning the conflict doesn’t end until someone plays the highest card 2 or 3 times, respectively.
<+Will_Uhl> That way, high-stakes climactic conflicts have time to unfold, tension to rise, and players to describe how their character comes out on top each round.
<~Dan> I see… So there’s no record of damage taken or the like?
<+Will_Uhl> Nope, there’s no hit points. Consequences are primarily narrative. The fact that every player declares what they want out of the clash before it begins means that conflicts are pivotal ways to steer the story forward.
<~Dan> What do the stories tend to be about?
<~Dan> (All you visitors feel free to chime in with questions! 🙂 )
<+xColdxFusionx> (The conversation’s been moving pretty fast so I haven’t been sure when to add my own questions.)
<~Dan> (Any time you like, xColdxFusionx! 🙂 )
<+Will_Uhl> (You don’t need to wait for me to finish, you can add questions as I’m answering)
<+xColdxFusionx> Just out of curiosity, what’s your favorite Sign you’ve written so far?
<~Dan> (Just FYI, I’ll call for a question pause if Will_Uhl gets too backed up with questions, so don’t worry about that.)
<+FDesch> On that note, I’ll ask: Have the playtests ever thrown a real surprise about the game balance at you, and what (if anything) changed as a result?
<~Dan> (And, question pause! 🙂 )
<+Will_Uhl> The story’s topic definitely varies! I played one minicampaign about a bunch of bored gods trapped in a realm evocative of ancient Egypt, and what happened when the seal between that realm and the real world began to weaken. Another was about a bunch of people being transported to a mysterious mansion on the moon, and uncovering why they were
<+Will_Uhl> brought there. That one had a pretty dramatic ending, with one player being tossed into the mansion’s magical furnace!
<+Will_Uhl> All in all, it’s about drama between less-than-perfect characters. The magic’s just there to help facilitate the narrative and allow for some imaginative scenes and settings.
<+Will_Uhl> My favorite Sign I’ve written so far is probably the Moon sign. That’s partially because I’m a sucker for time-stopping as a dramatic tool, but the idea of setting up all kinds of wicked machinations up in advance and then bringing them crashing down on your enemies ties in very well with dramatic escalation.
<+Will_Uhl> In terms of real surprises about game balance… well, there have been a couple times where I underestimated how effective one sign’s card-drawing mechanic would be, and then had to tweak it later. But honestly, the biggest surprise was that the Desire sign worked perfectly out of the box! Given that it’s focusing on playing with trust and
<+Will_Uhl> emotional manipulation, I felt a bit outside of my comfort zone writing it. But all of the playtesting feedback I’ve gotten on it has been pretty stellar, and it flows very elegantly, from what I’ve seen. So that definitely surprised me! ‘=D
<+Will_Uhl> (Okay, I’m caught up!)
<~Dan> (Questions may resume!)
<+Tone> Whats been your favorite character to come out of playtests that aren’t common in other game styles?
<+Will_Uhl> Ooh, good question.
<~Dan> Are there any default assumptions about the nature of the setting, or is it completely up to the participants?
<+Tone> Follow-up to Dan’s, how tightly coupled are the mechanics to the setting?
<~Dan> (Welcome to #randomworlds, RiJect!)
<~Dan> (Question pause, please! 🙂 )
<~Dan> (RiJect: Here for the Q&A? 🙂 )
<+RiJect> Yup, I’m not quite sure how this works yet
<~Dan> (No problem! We have a question pause on at the moment while Will_Uhl catches up. When he does, I’ll call for questions to resume, and you can ask away! 🙂 )
<~Dan> (By the way, #randomworlds2 is open for general chat, if any of you are interested.)
<~Dan> (Welcome to #randomworlds, Irregular_joe!)
<+Will_Uhl> re: favorite characterIt’s been a decent while since the story that featured them, but I think my favorite character that wouldn’t appear in most other RPGs so far was Nobu, a Blank sign and Beast path. This was the story set in a mysterious mansion on the moon. At first, everyone assumed she was just a generally haunting invidual – she played the
<+Will_Uhl> mansion’s organ, which echoed throughout the entire building. Then she got some garden shears. A session later, as she was working with another character to divine what would soon come to pass in the mansion, she used the shears to – well, I won’t get into the specifics. Suffice to say, some body horror was involved, and she wore an eyepatch
<+Will_Uhl> afterwards. But being able to have this alien character that’s socially commanding and intriguing yet mildly horrifying was a real gift.
<+Will_Uhl> (oops, looks like it left out the line break after character. Ah well.)
<+FDesch> (Blank Sign characters be like that)
<+Will_Uhl> The setting assumes basically two things: 1: the existence of magic, and 2: something keeping the characters in rough physical proximity together, whether it’s a literal feature of the setting or narrative convenience.
<+Will_Uhl> There’s an array of premade settings with the game for new GMs, and one of them is a modern-day urban city district centering on a nightclub.
<+Will_Uhl> (Y’all can ask some more questions as I answer the last one)
<~Dan> Do you have a character sheet that we can see?
<+Will_Uhl> re: how tightly the mechanics are tied to the setting – overall loosely, given how the specifics of the setting can vary according to the group’s wishes. However, every setting has a certain number of locations and NPCs in it, which mechanics in Session 0 help to define.
<+Will_Uhl> Right now, the character sheet’s just a slightly spruced-up spreadsheet, haha ‘=D
<~Dan> That’s okay! I just like to use character sheets for reference when discussing the system.
<+Will_Uhl> There’s not a whole lot to show off on it, but you can take a look if you like: (Link: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1O2WSbKOy31-uOQNXxG5c74SChHBxMX4jLpG5MMnsVOU/edit?usp=sharing)https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1O2WSbKOy31-uOQNXxG5c74SChHBxMX4jLpG5MMnsVOU/edit?usp=sharing
<~Dan> (Welcome to #randomworlds, kiwi_5070!)
<~Dan> Let’s see here…
<~Dan> You said that Sign is akin to class?
<+kiwi_5070> how do I listen?
<+Will_Uhl> The Q&A’s over text, not audio, so if you want to listen, you can just hang out :>
<~Dan> kiwi_5070: It’s all text, no voice. 🙂
<+FDesch> (And the whole chatlog will apparently be up later.)
<+Tone> How many birds were harmed in the making of this work? :p
<~Dan> (FDesch is correct. I’ll be posting it immediately after we’re done.)
<~Dan> ( kiwi_5070: Also, you can set your name with the /nick command; e.g., /nick Dan 🙂 )
<+Will_Uhl> Yeah, Signs are roughly akin to classes. They’re mainly different from traditional classes in that no two player characters can have the same Sign.
<~Dan> How many Signs are there?
<+Will_Uhl> The only bird harmed in the making of Mystic Lilies is the birdbrain speaking here today, Tone :p
<+Tone> Heh. Oh. Add-on to the “How many”, Is it reasonably possible to create your own?
<+Will_Uhl> There are 12 Signs total. I might write a couple extras for fun if I have the time, but the book has 12 (and they’re up to a good polish level.)
<~Dan> (brb — please continue!)
<+xColdxFusionx> (Do dragons count as birds? Because I can think of a second one who was if that’s the case.)
<+Will_Uhl> Writing your own Signs isn’t theoretically hard. If you can think of an overarching behavioral theme, three spells that encourage said behavior, and some prompts to better define the character and their relationships to the other player characters, you’re good. That’s easier said than done, naturally, but in terms of quantity of content to write,
<+Will_Uhl> not that much!
<+Tone> Same thing with Paths?
<~Dan> What are the Paths, come to that?
<+Will_Uhl> Yep, same general idea with Paths. They have a couple more moving parts, but I’d say they’re no harder to write than Paths.
<+Will_Uhl> Paths are the second mechanical half of the character sheet. They’re more concerned with the character’s role in the world.
<+Will_Uhl> For example,
<+Will_Uhl> the Shrinekeeper has a Shrine somewhere in the setting, and a god that they can sacrifice things to in order to gain power. The Emissary has a kind of magical element they can manipulate, and by spreading that element around, they can gain power that way. (Naturally, people probably won’t take kindly to you throwing your magic on everything, but
<+Will_Uhl> that’s where a bit of the drama comes in.)
<+Will_Uhl> Lastly, Paths have Incidents.
<+Will_Uhl> Each Path has one Incident, which is a super-powerful spell that takes time and energy to prepare. These are tailor-made to centralize the drama, throwing the rest of the setting out of balance as the Incident winds up.
<+Will_Uhl> For example, the first couple sentences of the Magician’s Incident, Forbidden Knowledge:
<+Will_Uhl> “Name a natural law (Day cycles into night; Dreams aren’t real; Time moves linearly). You are on the brink of a breakthrough – explain how you will be using your domain to create something to break that law.”
<+Will_Uhl> They’re all very narrative-focused, much like the rest of the game. Each Path’s incident is different, naturally heightening the story’s drama in a different way.
<+FDesch> How obvious or subtle can the Incidents be, anyway?
<+Will_Uhl> Good question. They tend to start out subtle, but as time goes on, their effects become more and more apparent until they force the rest of the players to confront it.
<+Will_Uhl> Given the amount of time and effort they can take to complete, many Incidents likely won’t complete – but that’s okay. The point is ultimately to accelerate and centralize the drama.
<~Dan> How long do they take?
<+Will_Uhl> Given the different paces that stories can take, that’s ultimately up to the GM. But the “default” amount of time is a couple days.
<~Dan> Oh, and a question from outside of the chat: A friend of mine wants to know if there can be ghosts. To that, I’d add that I’d like to know if there is anything else supernatural about the setting beyond witches.
<+Will_Uhl> Hah, not only can there be ghosts, you can play as a ghost! The Death sign’s powers involve communing with the (fellow) undead and possessing NPCs.
<+Will_Uhl> Its session 0 prompt is “Pick a player character – they were there when you died. ”
<~Dan> Ah! Very cool.
<+Will_Uhl> The degree of magic in the setting is something the group is explicitly told to agree on beforehand. There are three simple levels of magic that the rulebook suggests, though groups are obviously free to choose anywhere in between.
<+FDesch> This also sort of applies to the Shrinekeeper class and how that sort of faith plays out, then?
<+Tone> How strict are the session 0 prompts, such as Death’s?
<+Will_Uhl> The three levels are Closed (where magic is subtle, low-power, and generally shocking to ordinary people), Limited (where magic is uncommon, powerful, and slightly pervasive), and Open (where magic is wielded open, often, and powerfully.)
<~Dan> Will_Uhl: You’ve made my Facebook friend very happy with your response. 🙂
<+Will_Uhl> (Glad to hear! I had a lot of fun with Death sign when I played as a spurned god of decay :> )
<~Dan> (Nice! 🙂 )
<+Will_Uhl> The session 0 prompts vary in terms of how much they’re defining about your character. Some of them push you to create a relationship that embodies something important about your character, like the aforementioned prompt from Death sign, or the stalkerish Night sign’s “Pick a player character – you have watched them in the dark before.”
<+Will_Uhl> Some are more open-ended, like the divisive Wind sign’s prompt, “You’ve heard a rumor about each player character – tell them, and say which you believe true.”
<~Dan> Heh. 🙂
<~Dan> When you play at the Open level, do you have lots of magical critters running around, or do you keep it limited to magical abilities?
<+FDesch> It’s great to start up knowing exactly who’s already in the mood to knife each other.
<+Will_Uhl> Open level has magic as a pervasive element in the world, not just with the player characters. One of the more light-hearted setting starters is Open-level, with two of the NCPs being an impish fairy and a sluggish Earth Spirit.
<~Dan> Ah, I see. Cool.
<+Tone> What are setting starters like.
<~Dan> What are the SignMoves and ExtraMoves listed on the character sheet?
<+Will_Uhl> Setting Starters are concise one-pagers that aim to pack a lot of vivid description in an easy-to-use package so GMs can pick them up and get running. They don’t answer every question – many of them introduce plot hooks and leave it up to the GM if/how they want to use them. They all include an introduction to the setting, 5 location ideas, 5
<+Will_Uhl> non-player characters, a couple inciting events to get the drama going, and some soundtrack touchstones.
<+Will_Uhl> The Sign moves are the three spells that Signs can use. The Extra moves slots are for progression – when you fail a conflict, you gain a progression point. When you get 5, you trade them in for +1 to a stat of your choice and a Sign move that nobody else has picked.
<+Will_Uhl> So as the game goes on, you can build up some extra options for your character. If you find your character going in a different direction than you imagined, the new move can help reinforce that.
<+Tone> Hows a campaign vs a oneshot feel?
<+Will_Uhl> Like most one-shots, they’re short and sweet. The central conflict will likely come from the scenario that the GM crafted. Longer stories invite more natural drama, giving players time to interact with one another, create some friction, and then start up an Incident to really get things going with the GM needing to do much external pushing.
<+Will_Uhl> I’ve had fun with both, but longer stories are especially fun for Game Masters because eve you don’t know where it’s going to go. You’re along for the ride just as much as everyone else!
<~Dan> Would you classify the stories as “adventures”? Or are they mostly interpersonal drama?
<+Will_Uhl> Hah, I’ve definitely been avoiding the term “campaign” – partially because I don’t think they fit the typical format of “banding together to go adventure,” but also because of the wargame DNA in the name.
<+Will_Uhl> But anyway, yeah – I think “adventures” isn’t quite the right term. I would say they’re like magical soap operas, but I’ve never seen someone kicked off of a clock tower in a soap opera…
<~Dan> Speaking of kicking, I notice that all of the attributes are mental in nature. How do you handle physical activities?
<+Will_Uhl> They’re all titled that way, but each stat has three elements to it that better explain exactly what they encompass.
<+Will_Uhl> For example:
<+Will_Uhl> ♣Instinct: Aggression, Impulse, and Raw Power
<+Will_Uhl> So if you want to overpower someone with brute strength, be that magical or muscle, Impulse is the way to go.
<+Will_Uhl> But, say you wanted to dodge someone’s fists and use their brutish nature against them…
<+Will_Uhl> ♠Logic: Knowledge, Deduction, and Foresight
<+Will_Uhl> …you’d use Logic.
<~Dan> Hmm. Interesting.
<~Dan> So would you model a superhumanly-strong creature with a high Instinct?
<+Will_Uhl> Probably, yeah. As I mentioned, the Diamond stat, ♦Special, changes depending on your Path. If you wanted to play as a character that was incredibly intimidating and domineering, you could chose the Warden, whose ♦Special is Dominion: Revenge, Domination, Command.
<+FDesch> (How’s the Kickstarter been treating you? :p)
<~Dan> With the stipulation that you are free to hang out with us and answer questions as long as you like, is there anything we haven’t covered that you’d like to bring up?
<~Dan> (Before I log the chat, I mean.)
<+Will_Uhl> One quick thing – I use witch as a gender-neutral term. You can play Mystic Lilies as a character that identifies as whatever you like – and I’d actually encourage people to step outside of their comfort zone with it. After all, if you can imagine what it’s like being a vengeful ghost, I’m sure exploring other ways your character is different from
<+Will_Uhl> yourself won’t be too hard ;D
<~Dan> Fair enough. 🙂
<~Dan> Thanks very much for joining us, Will_Uhl!
<+Will_Uhl> Totally! Thank you for hosting me, it was a lot of fun!
<~Dan> Standard reminder: If you’ve enjoyed this Q&A and would like to treat me to a coffee, you can do so at (Link: https://www.ko-fi.com/gmshoe)https://www.ko-fi.com/gmshoe 🙂
<~Dan> Now, if you’ll give me just a minute, I’ll get the log posted and link you. 🙂