Game Design

Megalith Games Releases Resculpted Wyldfolk, Creates Faction Deal

Tabletop Gaming News - 16 October 2017 - 3:00pm
The process to create models for a game is a long and complex one, with artists, sculptors, and producers going back and forth on designs until everything is juuuuuuust right… Or, at least, just right for the time. We’ve all looked back at older models from companies and gone, “Man, look how far they’ve come […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Galakta Games Posts Rulebook for Wanted: Rich or Dead Online

Tabletop Gaming News - 16 October 2017 - 2:00pm
Longtime readers know I love it when a company posts a rulebook for their games online. You can check out the rules and see if the game’s for you. Also, having electronic versions of the book can really come in handy. In this case, the game is Wanted: Rich or Dead, an old-western shootout game […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Aliens and Asteroids Sci-Fi RPG Up On Kickstarter

Tabletop Gaming News - 16 October 2017 - 1:00pm
Just this past weekend, I re-watched one of my favorite movies: Predator 2. I nearly watched Alien, instead. And I still might do so sometime this week. Both, obviously, involve aliens going after humans, with heavy horror/action elements. And aliens, horror, and action is what you get in Aliens and Asteroids, a new sci-fi RPG […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Wyrd Previews The Commander For Through The Breach

Tabletop Gaming News - 16 October 2017 - 12:11pm
Wyrd keeps a nice, steady schedule for their previews. I can certainly appreciate that. I’m a big fan of routine. So, as it’s Monday, that means some new art to look at. In this case, it’s from the Through the Breach book, Above the Law. Check out the Commander. From the preview: Boy oh boy […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Fantasy Flight Games Posts New Uthuk Y’llan Army Preview For Runewars

Tabletop Gaming News - 16 October 2017 - 12:00pm
Within the demonic hordes of the Uthuk Y’llan of Runewars, there are heroes. No, most of the outside world wouldn’t use that term to describe them, probably preferring something a bit more like, “grotesque monster” or “awful horror” or “not a really nice guy,” but that’s all in perception. In this preview, we get a […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Monday Terrain Corner

Tabletop Gaming News - 16 October 2017 - 11:00am
It’s Monday. That means it’s back to the office after the weekend. I… feel like I could use another. *yawns* Saturday was baking cookies and then hanging out with friends. Sunday was busy doing stuff around the apartment. I think this upcoming weekend I’m going to be as chill as possible. But they, polar bears […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

PlayPals Gaming App Up On Kickstarter

Tabletop Gaming News - 16 October 2017 - 10:00am
We all love gaming (or, at least, I assume we all do, considering the website we’re on right now). However, it can often be hard to find others to game with. And sure, there’s plenty of solo games out there, but really, we want to hang out and play games with others. That’s not always […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Mad Moves Party Game Up On Kickstarter

Tabletop Gaming News - 16 October 2017 - 9:00am
Gotta, gotta get up to get down. Gotta, gotta get up to get down. Ok, really, that’s not the song that describes me at all. I’m much more, “I can’t dance. I can’t talk. The only thing about me is the way that I walk.” But even if you’re not a member of the fly […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Steamforged Previews Alternate Decimates For Guild Ball

Tabletop Gaming News - 16 October 2017 - 8:00am
The Union in Chains event is continuing. … All my teams are losing… badly (or I guess, they’re really great at losing, it would seem). So there’s a chance I won’t get any of these awesome resculpted models for my teams, but that doesn’t mean someone won’t be getting them. In this preview, we get […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

What Should Be the Next Move for Mobile Game Developers and Publishers (Report) - by Mantin Lu

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 16 October 2017 - 7:36am
I am sharing the data from some recent reports in the mobile game/app industry, and providing some insights based on my experience and analysis.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Why It's So Hard To Make a Video Game - by Dylan Moran

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 16 October 2017 - 7:35am
To get into video games development, it is best to find your passion, focus on it, and learn the needed skills.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

The Homeless Game Developer Week 2 - by Jonathan Neves

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 16 October 2017 - 7:34am
In need of a career boost, follow game designer and producer Jonathan Neves as he takes a journey from one location to the next in pursuit of job placement and professional satisfaction. Part 2
Categories: Game Theory & Design

'Unintuitive action at a distance' in video games and explorable explanations - by Hamish Todd

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 16 October 2017 - 7:26am
Mechanics in video games rarely have "action at a distance" - two objects in view affecting one another without somehow colliding. Yet this happens a lot in science - and in educational games!
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Fantasy Flight Games Previews Legacy of Dragonholt

Tabletop Gaming News - 16 October 2017 - 7:00am
Legacy of Dragholt lets you adventure around the world of Terrinoth in new and exciting ways. The game is less of an experience where you’re looking to win or lose, and much more about trying to create a story within the world you explore around. But how all is that supposed to work? Well, that’s […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Running a Solo Game GM-less

Gnome Stew - 16 October 2017 - 6:59am

Tell me if you’ve heard this one: It’s Thursday night and you want to play a game. But everyone in the party is across town, and it takes too long to set up, so they’d need to leave half an hour into actually playing. So you look over at your significant other, and they want to play too, but you can’t help but notice the dishes are piling up and the trash is full. Just then, your kid walks up and you have no idea what they got into, but it’s all over the walls now.

While my wife is going through grad school, we have almost no time to play. This is a huge change for me; for the last decade, I was running games twice a week for my FLGS. I was in withdrawal, to say the least. Even online play still requires scheduling with a whole party, and grad school, full time work, and a toddler make that hard. We also thought about running a solo game, but that meant one person on each side of the GM screen. So, we needed a tabletop RPG we could both play and share GMing responsibilities with, as well as be able to set up and walk away from quickly.

What we decided to do was take a rules light RPG that was something we were familiar with, Mircolite 20, and pair it with a system to help us run the game, a GM emulator. GM emulators are something special, and fall into their own, unique category of gaming, mixing tabletop RPGs, storytelling, and a whole lot of chaos.

What’s a GM Emulator?

GM emulators seek to help solo players answer questions their chosen ruleset can’t answer. A ruleset or system like Dungeons and Dragons does a fine job handling questions about conflict resolution. Is my character talented enough to open the locked chest? To bamboozle the mayor into giving me the keys to the city? To sumo-wrestle the tarrasque? The GM Emulator can help you answer questions about the state of the game world. Rule sets are not capable, except usually in a rudimentary fashion, of telling you if the town guard prepared for the orc raid, or if the planet your crew finds has sentient life. You could arbitrarily decide on an answer to that question, or you could ask the GM emulator to generate your answer.

CRGE is one of many GM emulators available on the market. You can find it as a Pay What You Want item on DriveThruRPG. The core of the system works like this: you ask a yes/no question (“Does this city have any sweet magic item shops?”), roll a percentile die, and compare the results against a chart that will help explain what you find.

Most answers result in a binary yes or no. “Yep, the sweet magic shop is near by.” But the closer you go to 0 or 100, the results begin to change for to “yes/no but”, then “yes/no and”, and finally “yes/no, and unexpectedly“. “But” results diminish the results. (“Yes, but it’s closed because a errant Robe of Many Things got loose.”). “And” results augment your answer. (“Yes, and there’s a buy one-get one sale on empty potion bottles!”).

Narration In Your Hands

Once you know your result from the chart, it’s up to you to interpret it. Whatever makes sense to you, and the story you want to tell, how your characters see the world, or whatever other factors you want to think up. And then go with it. The system provides just enough structure to move the story along. Not define it, but guide it. You get the pleasure of filling in the details.

All of that can still become too comfortable though, so “Unexpected” results throw you a curve ball. These spots sit on the extreme ends of the chart, and there is a separate list of unexpected things that may occur, such has characters (good or bad) showing up unexpectedly, or scene changes that force you to move the current event along quicker than you expect. These work well to keep the players on their toes, and can be a lot of fun to handle creatively. How do you explain the arrival of a new character in a locked room, or when the scene has to wrap up before you’ve accomplished what you wanted?

There are some other optional rules than can help the game along as well. Surge counters get added anytime you roll a simple “yes/no” answer, and each counter adds +2 to your next roll, resetting once you roll something other than a simple “yes/no”. It’s a simple addition that forces the game to keep things interesting, so you aren’t stuck taking vanilla answers for too long.

Optional Rules and Downfalls

Another optional rule is story threads. Threads represent story elements that you are interested in focusing the story on. It’s important to have a running list of current threads as some unexpected results ask you to change focus from one thread to another. These can be closed and opened as you feel that they reach resolution, depending on your character and what they consider the end of their stories to be. CRGE also provides three different probability charts to use, depending where you believe the story is heading, either to knowledge, to conflict, or to ending, with each chart progressively becoming more final (less “and” and “but” answers). Story threads are a great way to keep major plot points in mind as you try to weave your story. Roll something on the chart and what to put it in context? Grab a thread that makes sense and tie things together.

In practice, not every question about the game world needs to be answered with the emulator. A good rule is that you should only roll to answer questions that help move the narrative along. If you decide that something makes sense, or is very likely, a roll isn’t needed. No need to check what’s in every room you enter or village you plunder. Or, should you just come up with an interesting answer instead of rolling- go for it. The emulator is there just to provide a framework when you can’t fairly answer a question, but should be left by the side in the interest of good storytelling.

If all of this seems complex, the whole PDF for CRGE is 32 pages long, and mostly filled with examples and references. And keep in mind, it can be scaled to be as complex or simple as you feel appropriate for your game. My wife and I felt that, after the first couple of rolls, it was easy enough to manage the whole system during our game. The option rules do a lot to help guide the story, but players who feel natural at storytelling might find them restrictive. GRGE also recommends you keep track of threads, story developments, and your surge count by using index cards. This also makes cleanup a breeze. No need for journaling, just tuck your index cards away for the next game. This works especially well when our two year old decides to wake up from her nap in the middle of one of our gaming sessions.

When we feel that we can’t fill in a story element, or need help generations character or place names and details, we move over to donjon’s suite of online generators. If you haven’t played with the plethora of tools on his site, you should give them a try.

Choosing A System To Use With A GM Emulator

For our rule set, we choose Microlite20 as we are most familiar with d20 systems, so it’s easy to come up with content on the fly, or pull from the uncountable masses of existing stuff on our shelves. Also, with Mircolite, we can easily keep the folder of rules for the system, plus the rules for CRGE, index cards, and our dice, in a convenient place on our book shelf, meaning we can pick up and start a new game quickly.

Since the GM Emulator can help you answer questions about the game world, we intentionally left our setting open to grow during our sessions. We did make a number of starting assumptions about what we wanted from the game: for instance, we wanted non-human races to feel very special, and decided that we would not create non-human characters for now. With just the simple assumptions, we asked some questions of the emulator as we played to begin filling the details, occasionally using donjon to generate names for places and people.

Impressions

Our impressions so far is that while CRGE works very well for us, there are some pros and cons in using a GM emulator. I enjoy tactical combat, but the CRGE doesn’t work well to handle the depth of tactical situations. You would have to ask the emulator too many questions to get reasonable responses to do things like move troops and choose targets. There are though a number of alternatives systems written for that purpose (I like The Solo Wargaming Guide by William Silvester).

Another concern is deciding how to manage odd results like “yes/but” or “unexpected”. There have been times where it seems that the question doesn’t need more information than a binary answer. When the system begins to fault or leaves you unsure – just drop it, make a decision, and keep the game going.

One final note: this isn’t going to feel exactly like your normal experience with a full group. It’s definitely different, but that’s not a bad thing. If you hope to make a bigger narrative impact on game, using a GM emulator liberates you from convention and give you some new space to explore.

What other solutions have you used to be able to run small games without a GM. What other systems do you recommend in its place?

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Day 27 of 100 Days of VR: Adding New Bandit Enemy - by Josh Chang

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 16 October 2017 - 6:35am
Our goal today is to create a new enemy. Specifically, for practice, I want to create: A lower health, but faster unit and a higher health, but slower unit With these new enemies, we’ll have a more diverse and interesting experience in our game!
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Interview with Maxime Durand on Assassin's Creed: Origins and Discovery Tour Mode - by Bob Whitaker

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 16 October 2017 - 6:34am
Historian Bob Whitaker talks with Maxime Durand, Ubisoft's resident historian, about Assassin's Creed: Origins. Topics include historical research, Ancient Egypt, and using games for education.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Bringing Galaxy on Fire 3 to Vulkan: Vulkan on Android - by Johannes Kuhlmann

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 16 October 2017 - 6:34am
Blog series on how we brought our game to Vulkan. This is post 4 of 5 where we cover a few Android-specific peculiarities.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

New Music (Obscurity), Hurrah! Milestone #1 Reached, Squishing Magical Bugs, What's Next, Name Change - by Jake Jollimore

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 16 October 2017 - 6:29am
Some new music from Mika, and an exciting update (for me at least) on the game's first milestone!
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Games Workshop Taking Pre-Orders For Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire

Tabletop Gaming News - 16 October 2017 - 6:00am
Games Workshop has started taking pre-orders for the next of their board games. This time they head to the world of Age of Sigmar with Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire. The city of Shadespire’s rulers were so powerful that they told death that they weren’t really going to be doing that anytime soon. Nagash, however, had other […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

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