Hamsterprophecy: Prevision

It\’s All About Pen, Paper and People.

Vesna Thaw & Children of the Sun, Children of the Moon

Posted by Nathan P. on September 22, 2006

So I participated in the Reversed Engineer challenge, wherein you first create a character sheet, and you then receive somebody else’s sheet and reverse engineer a game from it. I submitted this sheet, and I received Martin O’Leary’s. Russell Collins received my sheet.

When I made my sheet, I was thinking about a lot of stuff stemming from Gen Con conversations, especially about how the artifacts you use at the table are the interface between you and the game space. So I wanted something interactive, something that you had to participate in creating, which was the germ of the folding portion of the sheet (I was by no means unique with this – folding elements of character sheets showed up all over the contest). I also wanted something with poker chips, because I got an awesome poker chip set at Gen Con. I also wanted something with a mythic/epic tone, with a lot of room for metaphor and interpretation.

I think that Russell did some admirable work by running with those elements of intention, which either means I did a good job designing the sheet, or he did a good job reading my mind. I look forward to putting the game through some play, if I have half the chance. Russell, come Dreamation, we’ll play!

So, my game. The sheet I got was awesome, to me, in two ways – the big box for drawing your robot, and the soviet theme. So, obviously I would be writing a game about giant fighting soviet robots. Now, the sheet has a strong humorous element, but it also has some interesting labels (the box’s in the top right), and I decided that I wanted to write a game that would have giant fighting soviet robots, but would also have some seriousness to it. I’m not big on pure “humor” games, I need some meat underneath for me to enjoy it.

So, somewhere in my brainstorming, I decided that there were robots because there was no other way to get about, because of radiation. And so, my basic idea was born – post-soviet post-nuclear robots. It’s after the cold war turned hot, all of the survivors have been living in isolated underground bunkers for 10 years, and only now, and only in kitbashed robots made from left-over parts and powered by faulty radioactive powerplants, can people take to the surface and try to rebuild.

Fear not, there is still giant robot fighting! But, the game at it’s heart is about seeking and finding, and trying to rebuild a larger community while preserving your local one. I did a lot of design things that I’m not used to, which I think was good. There’s elements of a lot of games and conversations in this design. Burning Empires and Grey Ranks for scenes-as-currency, Grey Ranks for Scenes-as-Pacing, a lot of Jonathon Walton’s work about reward not needed to be mechanical, some post-“stakes conversation” thoughts about how conflicts work, Meatbot Massacre and Mechaton for robot fighting, Polaris for GMful and protagonist-centered play. And more, I’m sure.

In the end, it’s a progressive game (stuff starts out difficult to acheive, and becomes easier as the game progresses, until you’re probably succeeding at everything just as you go out in your radiation-induced Blaze of Glory). Resolution is kind of conflict resolution, but not necessarily. I’m not sure what lingo to use to describe it. Rewards are encoded more for opposition than for success. There’s no GM, and each scene is explicity centered on your character. Oh, and you all get to help draw each other’s robots, which is cool!

So it’s a funky, wierd game that I think I like, and I have no idea if it works or not. Time will tell.

I have two games to review, Christian Griffin’s Celestial Soap and Adam Dray’s Architects of Aztlan, which are very different from each other, which is cool. I’m looking forward to it, and to seeing what Roger Carbol and Dave Cleaver have to say about Vesna Thaw.

Mad props to Kevin Allen Jr for running this whole shebang. It = teh rock.

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