7:32 PM +fraser_simons: Hi, I’m Fraser Simons, the writer and designer of the tabletop roleplaying game Yonder. A game where you play people who flee a cataclysm believed to be caused by an ongoing generational war into a magical land that alters them as they reveal their inner nature.
7:33 PM +fraser_simons: Acts of bravery or daring, cunning, or cowardice are catalysts that physically and magically change a person. Catalysts are a commodity that is collected when player characters have character-defining moments. Each time a PC gets a catalyst, they get to say how their character changes. When they get enough catalysts, they can be spent to create a
7:33 PM +fraser_simons: trait. This gives the player character more fictional positioning and can help them out mechanically, when pertinent.
7:33 PM +fraser_simons: The group as a whole, before character creation, go through a procedure that defines the setting. The only mandatory thing is that people must change when they reveal their inner nature. This is codified as a universal truth. Players can then add more universal truths or play to find out and add them as they are encountered. Otherwise how a person
7:33 PM +fraser_simons: changes is assumed to be an individual truth, applying to that specific person only—be they PC or NPC.
7:33 PM +fraser_simons: Yonder is fundamentally about exploring the literalization of change in a person within a fantasy context and what said changes look like for you and your friends. But done in such a way as to interrogate fantasy tropes in an open, collaborative way.
7:33 PM +fraser_simons: (done)
7:34 PM ~Dan: Thanks, fraser_simons! The floor is open to questions!
7:34 PM ~Dan: I take it that there’s no fixed setting?
7:35 PM +fraser_simons: Beyond the premise, the procedure will be the players’ way of defining the setting. There are tropes in the genre to help players out new to the genre and serve as dials for things like the tone of the game and point the way for people new to fantasy. Some are universal truths, and some are individual ones. There are also campaign frames that help
7:35 PM +fraser_simons: players hone in on what they are interested in and want to pursue within the fiction.
7:35 PM +fraser_simons: These range from leading a caravan as the head of the expedition to a group that traversed their own path together away from the homeland into the new one and are out there to seek out what’s new.
7:35 PM +fraser_simons: But mostly, the idea is that you’ll use these as framing devices and then play to find out the rest. There are no prescriptive defined setting elements, but there are a lot of ideas you can take up and roll with should they suit your intentions for the game.
7:35 PM +fraser_simons: (done)
7:37 PM ~Dan: To clarify, is it assumed that the PCs are initially unfamiliar with magic?
7:37 PM +fraser_simons: Yeah, it’s assumed you’re coming from a “mundane” land into a magical one. People could tweak this when starting, so long as it aligns with the idea of change through action.
7:38 PM ~Dan: Are there any assumptions about the nature of the mundane land?
7:38 PM ~Dan: (Howdy, Silverlion!)
7:39 PM ~Dan: Insofar as tech level, for example?
7:40 PM +fraser_simons: The assumption is that there was the largest battle yet seen and the battlefield ran red with blood and that is when the cataclysm occurred to drive people out. But otherwise nothing is codified about factions or setting elements in that previous land.
7:40 PM ~Dan: Are the PCs all human (at least initially)?
7:40 PM +fraser_simons: The art direction all rolls toward typical fantasy, Lord of the Rings, very little tech.
7:41 PM +fraser_simons: Initially, all human; correct.
7:42 PM ~Dan: How to the players help create the setting?
7:43 PM +fraser_simons: The initial procedure has options for customization and goal posting fantasy tropes for people. Basically like a playbook where everyone decides what they think would be interesting and want to include in the game and then when they choose their classes, there are inbuilt questions that are posed to the players to further codify aspects of the
7:43 PM +fraser_simons: setting as well.
7:44 PM ~Dan: So it’s a class-based game?
7:45 PM +fraser_simons: Yes, there are three starting classes: Seeker, Believer, and Guardian. Each have a starting special ability and, through advancement, player characters can obtain more.
7:46 PM ~Dan: What are their starting special abilities?
7:48 PM +fraser_simons: Seekers attune themselves to something they’re looking for and get mechanical leverage when pursuing it. Believers have boon – bane options to select from when choosing how they are mechanically empowered by what it is they believe in, and Guardians decide what they care about enough to protect and similarly to Seeker, have mechanical benefits to
7:48 PM +fraser_simons: deploy when protecting said thing.
7:49 PM +fraser_simons: Each also has instructions that alter their approaches based on their class that differ as well.
7:49 PM ~Dan: And what are some setting questions the selection of these classes involve?
7:52 PM +fraser_simons: They have the option of creating a faction tied to their class. In the case of the seeker, define something in the setting that they want to find out more about. Believers can define aspects of faith. And because everything acts as a catalyst for change, can impact the setting to a large degree.
7:52 PM +fraser_simons: oop. someone just knocked on my door. I will brb! shouldn’t be long! I will continue answering when I return!
7:53 PM ~Dan: No problem!
7:55 PM +fraser_simons: Back!
7:55 PM ~Dan: wb!
7:57 PM ~Dan: Do you have a character sheet that we can see?
7:58 PM +fraser_simons: Unfortunately no. I imagine I’ll be doing beta testing in a couple months and should have it ready then, as well as a character keeper for online playtesting. The graphic designer will be working on it shortly.
7:59 PM ~Dan: That’s okay. Can you describe the elements that make up a character, then?
8:02 PM +fraser_simons: Sure. Name, look, class, gear, injuries (ranging from minor to critical), advancements (a section for XP and major and minor milestones), contacts, factions, and the main thing that defines a character: approach trees
8:02 PM ~Dan: I see. And what are the latter?
8:02 PM +fraser_simons: Every PC has something called approach trees. There are six starting approaches every character has access to: Violence, Precision, Velocity, Compromise, Establish, and Uncover.
8:02 PM +fraser_simons: There is also one tree reserved for the PC’s class (Seeker, Believer, or Guardian). Then there is one blank completely blank approach tree, which is used for advancement and customization.
8:03 PM +fraser_simons: They’re called trees because within each of these broad approaches there are 3 additional spaces for a player to codify a focused approach. Something that falls within that approach but provides further fictional positioning and a mechanical boost.
8:04 PM ~Dan: How specific must these three focused approaches be?
8:07 PM +fraser_simons: They just need to fit within the broad approach. Play styles differ a great deal. Some people are hyper specific, drilling down into a specific approach so that a specific action within the approach gives them the most amount of mechanical support. But when they something that doesn’t apply, it doesn’t go as well, obviously.
8:07 PM * ~Dan nods
8:08 PM ~Dan: What is the task resolution mechanic?
8:08 PM +fraser_simons: At higher levels, however, players can link one approach tree to another. So planners can strategize a great deal if they want to. Working two trees toward a specific archetype they like.
8:09 PM +fraser_simons: It’s a d6 dice pool system. Players start with 1 die. For each applicable approach they get an additional die.
8:09 PM +fraser_simons: It is a tiered success system. A 1-3 means things aren’t going to go the characters way. 4 or 5 means they do the thing, but there’s a complication as well. They get their way…but it’s not an unmitigated success, like when a 6 is rolled.
8:09 PM +fraser_simons: The harder the obstacle or foe, the more successes a PC needs, however, scaling with access to more dice being rolled as PC’s advance.
8:10 PM ~Dan: Do NPCs have stats, or are they just rated as difficulty levels?
8:11 PM +fraser_simons: Just difficulty levels for mechanics. Everything else would be fictional positioning.
8:11 PM ~Dan: Does the game have a magic system?
8:13 PM +fraser_simons: No. Essentially magic users would either select a specific broad approach to use and add a focused approach there for the magic they’re going for. Or, there is actually a blank approach tree that can be used for those purposes. Though the Refere (GM) would work with the player on that. Something in keeping with the established tone and setting
8:13 PM +fraser_simons: elements, etc.
8:15 PM +fraser_simons: And instead of adding, say, ‘Fireball’, they’d be adding something like phosphormancer or something like that. And could use their imagination in applying that vocation.
8:15 PM ~Dan: I see.
8:15 PM ~Dan: Are there any special rules for combat?
8:15 PM +fraser_simons: And could drill down into it with the approach tree, or else add a few different things but get less dice.
8:17 PM +fraser_simons: Not particularly. When you make a roll you say what you want to accomplish and the Referee tells you what is at stake, scaling with the stakes and tone of the game. There are no specific actions, minor actions, and things of that sort. Nor initiative order and what not.
8:17 PM ~Dan: How is damage determined?
8:19 PM +fraser_simons: It scales with the attempt and person. If you want to land a critical blow, it might make sense you’re risking one in return. For the Guardian, maybe they’re better at fighting than you’re established as, so they risk a moderate one with the same attempt. You could make each roll granular or make one roll to see which of you dies.
8:19 PM ~Dan: (Howdy, Eric_E!)
8:21 PM +fraser_simons: If the enemy is of a higher tier than you, though, the stakes communicated during the roll procedure would give the players the necessary information. Like. If you try to attack this creature, you can attempt to hurt it, probably not kill it, but you’re risking death yourself. Or X amount of critical injuries, etc.
8:21 PM +fraser_simons: Or if you attack the dragon you will not be able to hurt it and risk death.
8:21 PM ~Dan: How many injuries can a character survive?
8:23 PM +Eric_E: hiya folks
8:24 PM +fraser_simons: It depends, when you create a character you roll and see how many critical, moderate, and minor injuries you can handle. It’s one of the first things you do. Though the max is 4 of each. If you accrue minor ones and are maxed out you start marking moderate ones, then critical. Then you die.
8:24 PM +fraser_simons: Hello~~
8:25 PM ~Dan: Do weapons and armor matter? If so, how so?
8:28 PM +fraser_simons: Gear is tiered and can add to your dice pool. Armor is rolled when you would take an injury and can negate the injury. But the roll also determines if it breaks. It depends on it’s quality.
8:30 PM +fraser_simons: Weapons primarily give you the fictional positioning to do the attacking, but at higher levels can have other properties and add to your dice pool.
8:34 PM ~Dan: How hard has it been to find players for your game?
8:36 PM +fraser_simons: Well, in person, very hard, haha. My normal sessions haven’t taken place since Feb-March. Online, I’m fortunate enough to never have any problems. People know me from my other games and this system is one I developed for a different game, Retropunk, and am adapting it to these new design goals. So there’s just those changes to playtest.
8:39 PM ~Dan: Have you played any online?
8:40 PM +fraser_simons: Yeah I mostly play online now over at The Gauntlet gaming community. When hangouts was disconnected from Youtube I stopped recording every session. Previously I post most of my stuff on my Youtube channel. I’ll be recording sessions of this going forward though, I think I have OBS figured out enough to do that and upload it.
8:41 PM +fraser_simons: It’ll have an online character keeper for playing it as well. Makes it easier.
8:42 PM ~Dan: Nice.
8:42 PM +fraser_simons: Roll wise, it’s very easy because it’s a d6 dice pool system. The only challenge is getting the keeper in such a way as to be able to visualize and add to the approach trees easily. Since a visual component is necessary for planning out advancement.
8:45 PM ~Dan: On a scale of gritty to cinematic, with 1 = Warhammer FRP and 2 = crazy, over-the-top superheroics, where does Yonder fall?
8:47 PM +fraser_simons: I’m not familiar with Warhammer but I think Yonder’s procedure and the way that I write about playing the game makes it more concerned with cinematic storytelling than with something more granular or ‘simulationist’
8:53 PM +fraser_simons: Any other questions? =)
8:57 PM ~Dan: Sorry — IRL distraction.
8:57 PM ~Dan: Is this the start of a game line for you, or is it more of a one-off?
8:59 PM +fraser_simons: I think it’ll be the corebook and possibly one more book. A supplement comprised of evocative character builds and take-it-or-leave-it setting elements and factions and the like people can use.
9:01 PM ~Dan: Nice.
9:02 PM ~Dan: Okay, danhunsaker, are you around this evening?
9:02 PM ~Dan: No? Okay, then it’s up to me to ask your Favorite Question(TM)!
9:02 PM ~Dan: fraser_simons, what is your *least* favorite aspect of Yonder?
9:05 PM +fraser_simons: How difficult it is to explain the approach tree system without a visualization tool. I think it’s a great design that’s flexible and accommodating of a lot of play styles. But it is difficult to explain what is cool about it without you being able to see it. And I don’t think I’ve come across a game with a character sheet that is like that.
9:05 PM * ~Dan nods
9:05 PM ~Dan: Interesting answer!
9:05 PM +fraser_simons: Even when I try to explain it like skill trees, people are like wat.
9:05 PM ~Dan: Heh. 🙂
9:06 PM ~Dan: Is this the sort of abstract game design that you favor?
9:06 PM +fraser_simons: Yeah, most of my games are heavy on creating investment through subjective, collaborative procedures and mechanics.
9:07 PM +fraser_simons: I like games where you feel like you’re playing in your own world, not something created by someone else.
9:07 PM * ~Dan nods
9:07 PM ~Dan: Cool.
9:08 PM ~Dan: Is there anything we haven’t covered that you’d like to bring up?
9:08 PM +fraser_simons: Highly prescriptive players do not like my games. And that’s fair. lol
9:10 PM +fraser_simons: hmmm. I can’t show you this, but it has great, evocative art. It has a good price point and will be a premium quality product. I run my Kickstarter campaigns so that backers are different than simply customers. Usually the product is cheaper and you’ll get it first, as a reward for taking more risk than ‘normal’ customers.
9:12 PM +fraser_simons: I think that’s about it for the system and mechanics and what not. Touched on just about everything I can think of.
9:12 PM ~Dan: Okay then! Mind if we wrap up a bit early, then?
9:12 PM +fraser_simons: Oh! Wait. That’s not true. One more thing!
9:12 PM ~Dan: Sure!
9:14 PM +fraser_simons: Player characters reveal their inner nature/character when they take action. When these things are character defining they get something called catalysts. Which a player character gets these the player decides how they physically change. Growing longer ears like an elf. Growing feathers. Whatever. But when enough catalysts are collected they can be
9:14 PM +fraser_simons: spent to give the player character a trait, which is the mechanical manifestation of these changes.
9:15 PM ~Dan: Ah, cool!
9:15 PM +fraser_simons: That’s how you could turn into an elf or a dwarf, or whatever fantast trope you’re going for.
9:15 PM * ~Dan nods
9:16 PM +fraser_simons: So you basically craft the mythology of this trope through play.
9:16 PM ~Dan: That’s very cool.
9:16 PM +fraser_simons: Thanks!
9:16 PM +fraser_simons: I think that covers everything now. hah
9:17 PM ~Dan: Cool! 🙂
9:17 PM ~Dan: Thanks very much for joining us, fraser_simons!
9:17 PM +fraser_simons: Thanks for the invite!
9:18 PM ~Dan: If you’ll give me just a minute, I’ll get the log posted and link you!
9:18 PM +fraser_simons: Great!