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Information Overload

My Final Fantasy board game just keeps growing in complexity. The more I work on it, the more cards and tokens I need to keep track of everything. Thing’s might get out of hand soon.

Let me give you an example: This is what a midgame character probably would look like. On the top row we have two quest rewards, a race and a class card (not finished yet), some tokens for keeping track of health and mana, four coins, a weapon, an armour and an accessory. On the lower row we have four abilities, a die and two currently unused items. What is missing from the picture is action point tokens and tokens to keep track of bonuses to might and magic. I’m working on getting some.

When a player need to keep track of a dozen cards and a dozen tokens at the same time, things can get a bit messy. I want the players to have the tactical element of picking the right weapon or the right ability, but I don’t want to risk them getting caught in analysis paralysis.

So what’s my plan for solving this issue? The answer is colours! I am going to colour code everything; normal items will be green, abilities orange, races and classes grey, story quests white, dungeon cards purple, monsters red and quest rewards yellow. I hope this will help everybody to keep track of everything in the game.

I have finally made some progress with my Final Fantasy board game.

Combat
I want to keep combat simple yet tactical. I want a very quick and simple mechanical system, and I am currently going with Stat+D10 vs Stat+D10.
I also want to give each of the players a number of options to pick from. Each player starts with a physical attack, a magical attack and a class-based ability. As you advance through the game you gain more and more abilities, making the characters more powerful and versatile.

Abilities & Gear
The only fixed abilities right now are the class-based ones, the rest are open to the players. I am designing a system where you gain ability cards that you can combine to create your own abilities; Fire+Fire to create a powerful fireball or Thunder+2*Additional Target to create a lighting spell that attacks three monsters at once.
I am using a similar system for the equipment. There are weapons with different damage modifications, armours to defend against attacks and accessories to help you against status effects. If you have the coins for it then you can combine items to create even better gear for you.

Story Cards
I have also found a solution for my story problem. The games big quests (the starting quest, the main quests and the final quest) are all drawn from randomized decks of cards. I hope this modularity will enhance the replayability and reduce the predictability of the game.
The starting quest is a short and simple adventure to give the players a chance to try out their characters and to find their roll in the group.
The main quests are the bread and butter of the game. They are the big adventures that make up the larger story of the gaming session. I think a normal game will require the players to complete about 3-5 main quests cards, depending on how long they want to play.
The final quest is the big one, an event that change the world in a major way.

Game Board
I had a fixed board layout planned, but I have recently started experimenting with a modular game board, so that the world map would change every time. This is mostly for aesthetic reasons.
The map is composed by a number of large general areas (grasslands, forest, coast) with a number of smaller specific locations in each. When the players enter a location they draw a random encounter card and may face either a combat against monsters, meet a helpful person or find a sidequest.

Co-operation
When I started this project I wanted to make a game that was purely co-op, with all the players fighting together against the game. As the game grew in complexity and the monsters got more and more things you needed to track, I had to abandon this idea and assign a player to run them. To give that player something more to do I also gave him the responsibility to draw and read all the story cards and random encounters. This gives that player the role of a storyteller, and not just a monster master.

I have slowly been collecting my ideas on a wiki. I really like the format when brainstorming ideas. Playtesting is still a bit into the future, but I’m hoping to meet some of my playtesters this coming Sunday to get some comments on what I have so far.

During last Sundays playtest of Jönköping Horror the topic of making a Final Fantasy game came up yet again. We in my gaming circle have many times before talked about writing our own roleplaying game based on the series of games, but this time we had a new idea, to create a co-operative board game.

I have been thinking about it for a couple of days now and it has been hard to come up with something original. My best idea so far is something similar to the game Talisman. The board would have lots of low-level areas along the outer edge of the board with some high-level ones in the middle. You would run around and do quests, slay foul monsters and level up you character, all the typical stuff from that type of game. What I’m lacking is the overall story, the big reason why the heroes are out on this epic quest.

Last time we talked about a Final Fantasy roleplaying game I suggested we’d use Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition as our rules system. The FF games have lots of cool combat manoeuvres and few social skills, so DnD is a perfect fit. The rules system is made for tactical combat and everybody has a number of powers to use as they please.

Another suggestion I’ve had was to use the Savage Worlds rules. My biggest problem with it is that I haven’t yet played the system, only read it a few times, so I don’t really know how well it would fit.

I have spent a few hours today on a SW wiki and a FF wiki reading up on things. I’m not sure what will come out of this idea, but there is a chance that this seed will grow and blossom into many hours of entertainment.

Jönköping Horror v.1


Last year I wrote about making a custom board for the game Arkham Horror, and I have now returned with an update to that project. Last Sunday me and a couple of friends did a first playtest of the board and it was a complete success. We only ran into a couple of minor issues, things I expected people to comment on, so no big surprises at all. The game flowed smoothly and we had a lot of tense moments, and that’s exactly what we wanted from the game.

I was hoping to have more exciting things to talk about, but pretty much everything went as I thought it would. I guess I should be glad that all my hard work has paid off. Now I can focus on the new mechanics (public transportation, aquatic movement, companions roaming the board) I want to implement.

The basics of Arkham Horror is simple; gates to other dimensions open, horrible monsters invade the city, and the players do everything they can to stop it. That core is still intact in Jönköping Horror. I have messed a bit with the layout of the city, made the suburbs on the ends of the board feel a bit further away from the central part of the city. The location of the hot spots for gate activity are roughly at the same relative locations as in the original game, and they have roughly the same percental change to spawn gates.

Arkham Horror relies on a large number of mythos cards to control what evils the players will face. They control where gates spawn, what monsters will move where and what strange occurrences will happen in the town. Making 100+ cards was not an option for me, so I sat down and analysed the cards and looked for general trends and the frequencies of certain things. What I ended up with was a page full of random tables to control everything; where gates open, where new clues appear, what types of monsters move, how monsters move, what headlines occur, what environments happens. All the things you’d find on the mythos cards.

That’s not all the cards I’ve done away with. I have also removes the Arkham Encounters cards. When exploring the city you’ll have random encounters determined by cards. Once again I sat down and analysed and wrote small lists of 10 random encounters per location on the board, both for the 26 in Jönköping and the 8 Other Worlds. The layout of the new board and it tables was inspired by the game Talisman and it’s random encounter tables. Having the tables right there on the board gives the players a lot more information about a location, something only very experienced or really well-read players of Arkham Horror would know. This was something I got really positive feedback on. People like it when they can know what dangers they might face in the game.

Lastly, there are the custom investigators. That is where everything started actually. After playing Arkham Horror for a while I got the idea to make versions of myself and my friends for use in the game. After some searching around on the web I found a really good system for making your own investigators, a system I have used to make over a dozen new playable characters. Playing yourself in a game like this is fun, playing yourself trying to save your own home town is even better.

I have looked around on the Fantasy Flight Games forum for custom creations for Arkham Horror. There are tons of new investigators and ancient ones there, but custom boards are quite a rare thing. I can see why, they are a ton of work to do. I’m planning on making a post similar to this on the fan creations forum in the hopes that it might encourage people to take the leap and and create something as elaborate as a custom board.

If you want to know more about Jönköping Horror then go ahead and take a look at the wiki I have been using while developing it. It might not match up 100% with the finished product and it’s rather ugly, but it has all the information you’d want.

Retro-Futuristic Renaissance


You have heard about cyberpunk

You have heard about steampunk

My latest idea is da Vincipunk…

Mixed Bag Of Ideas

The holidays are here and I’m spending most of my days sick in bed. Nevertheless, I’ve got some half-baked ideas to share.

Super Kids
The South Park episode The Coon made me think about a game about kid super heroes. As I imagine it, the game should have two different distinct feels for when you play kids and when you play costumed heroes. I want it to be unclear if they have actual superpowers or if it’s all pretend, it’s all the same for the kids anyway

Weird Stuff
I was listening to George R. R. Martin talking about his childhood and that his father grouped together science fiction, fantasy and horror literature under the name “weird stuff”. I liked that label and started thinking about making a game centered around that label.
The main focus of the game would be mysteries in the modern day. The exact elements used in the mystery, be it murders, kidnappings, occult rites, weird creatures, fringe science or abnormal behaviour would depend on what the people involved were interested in.
I see this as a game for 1-4 players that are trying to solve the mystery together in an interesting way. An important factor in that is the concept of failing forward. There is always a way to continue, the story can never just abruptly end.

End Users
This idea is a mashup of TRON, The Matix and the Virtual Adepts from Mage: The Ascension.
Human hackers vs computer systems in cinematic adventures.
“a digital frontier that will reshape the human condition” – Kevin Flynn

Space opera
This is something I’ve had in the back of my mind for a long time. A setting with weird aliens, psychic powers, princesses waiting to be rescued, advanced technologies, laser-guns, force-fields, space armadas, those sorts of things… I will write more about it as soon as I can decide on a good name for it.

Obsidian Shadows
There are a lot of fantasy settings out there based either on Europe or Asia, but very few have used the cultures of the Mesoamerican region as their base. As a fan of this region, I thought I’d address that issue. I also like the idea of a realm where dreams manifest and become reality. Taking these two ideas and combining them with a vivid spirit realm and a land of the dead makes for an interesting mythological setting with a different feel to it than normal fantasy settings.

Conspiracy Theories
I have a soft spot for the really crazy conspiracies, I find them very enjoyable to listen to. Something I’ve been thinking about for a long time is making a one-shot RPG scenario or two in where you make one really insane theory into reality and really go nuts with it. There are thousands and thousands of theories out there in the world to get inspiration from, but the ones I’ve been looking at recently are Scientology, the reptoids and the videos by Colleen Thomas.

Darkness Within

I had this idea earlier tonight and felt like sharing it. I will probably never develop this further so I’m just throwing my notes up here as-is.

* one-shot RPG scenario, 2-4 players, 3.5-4 hours
* character creation during play, Instant Game (no pre-defined traits)
* wakes up in old abandoned church, no memories of their previous lives, no names
* relatively fresh occult tattoos and scarring on their bodies, blood and gore around them
* semi-abandoned location, exploration of both selves and the place
* strange powers start manifesting, their bodies act strange, accumulation of side effects
* “who am I?”, “who did this?”, “why did they do this?”
* the group tries to track down the people responsible, scattered hints and clues
* the world is not as it should be, tainted creatures stalks the night
* final showdown with crazy cult
* when you finally know who you where, who will you then become?

“Battle not with monsters lest you become a monster;
and if you gaze into the abyss the abyss gazes into you.”

– Friedrich Nietzsche

Junction Junkie

One of the most disliked feature in Final Fantasy VIII was the junction system. It’s a system used for boosting the different character statistics and to give elemental or status effects to weapons and armour. The player must assign a summoned creature called a Guardian Force to enable the boosting. To increase a stat you need magic spells (who function like items in the game) which you can equip onto stats such as Strength, Vitality, Evasion and Hit-Rate. Which attributes that can be customized depends on what Guardian Force(s) you have junctioned. The Guardian Forces can learn to unlock more statistics to junction magic to by leveling up or by the use of special items.

I think this system is really interesting, I liked it when I first saw it and I still like it now. The possibilities it opens up for character customization are amazing, so when the thought of using it for a custom RPG system popped into my head the other day I knew I’d have to finish something before I could go on to another project.

After finishing of marathons of both Jurassic Park and Tolkien lectures I now have a few more things to add on Engai.

First, pronunciation. I say Engai with a “ng”-sound, like in words ending with “-ing”.

Second, summary of the setting. I got this idea when I leafed through the Dark Sun setting book. It had a good summary and I thought I’d copy the format since that setting was one of the major influences on my development on Engai.
* The world is a jungle
* The world is savage
* Metal is scarce
* Primal magic permeate the world
* There are no gods
* Fierce monsters roam the world

Third, the races. Could the typical fantasy races (humans, elves, dwarves, etc…) be used in this world? Yes, of course, but I want a lot of new and different options as well. I can see the importance of something familiar when dealing with new situations, having only new races and monsters can be overwhelming. Below is a short list of a few less common races I think could fit the world of Engai:
* Na’vi – Cat people are a favorite of many, and having agile blue tribal warriors stalking the canopy works well.
* Kroot – I love the idea of the kroot, avian hominids that honour the fallen by ritual cannibalism.
* Vrocks – I have for a long time been a fan of the vrocks, large demons with vulture features, so I’d like to see a race that looks like them somewhere in this world
* Togrutas – there are a lot of strange and weird races in the star wars universe, and togrutas are one of them that could be made to fit in the jungles of Engai.
* Great Race of Yith – I really like how the Yithians look in their plant form. The idea of a race of highly intelligent plants with psychic powers works well in this setting.
* Thri-kreen – Another long time favourite race of mine.

With this post, I think I’m done with Engai, at least for now.

Horror at Home


I have finally managed to create a layout sketch for the new Arkham Horror board that I’m satisfied with. There is still a lot of work left on the locations and the investigators, but I’m making progress.