At the moment of writing this, I’m still running Kubuntu 13.10 (codename Saucy), because I haven’t bothered upgrading to 14.x yet.
OK, down to business. AGS has a Linux-port of the engine, but getting the editor to run in Linux takes a bit of tinkering. Here’s what I did.
1) Get the latest version of Wine
Head to https://www.winehq.org/download/ubuntu and add the Wine PPA to your package sources. Then run:
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install wine
2) Create a separate 32-bit wine prefix
WINEARCH=win32 WINEPREFIX=~/.wine32 winecfg
Just press “Ok” if you don’t know a particular change to the default Wine setup you wish to apply to the prefix.
3) Install .NET 2.0 on this prefix.
env WINEPREFIX=~/.wine32 winetricks dotnet20
4) Download the latest AGS install executable
Head to http://www.adventuregamestudio.co.uk/site/ags/ and download the executable. Then run (in the folder you downloaded to):
env WINEPREFIX=~/.wine32 wine AGS-3.3.0.exe
Exchange “AGS-3.3.0.exe” for whatever file you’ve downloaded.
5) Start the editor
env WINEPREFIX=~/.wine32 wine ~/.wine32/drive_c/"Program Files"/"Adventure Game Studio 3.3.0"/AGSEditor.exe
This snippet assumed you made no changes to the suggested installpath and is ideally saved as a shortcut on your system.
EDIT: The funding campaign has now gone live. You can find it here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1910926153/opposing-forces-powered-by-fate-core
Let’s keep it short and sweet. The last post was all about prep. That should consist of roughly 30 minutes to an hour of GM – player co-conspiracy. We now have a character sheet that consists of three phrases:
- “Race and class”
- Something that ties in to the initial statement made by the GM
- Something that’s highly characteristic for the character in question
We make two more things before we start playing:
- Grab a deck or two of normal playing cards. Each player picks a court card from ’em. Shuffle and place menacingly at the table.
- Give each player “a pack of cigarettes” – 20 tokens of your choice. (We used poker chips during our playtest to maintain that smoke-filled speakeasy feel.)
This is how it works. The GM usually says “Yes” or “Yes, and…” to everything that players initiate. “Yes, but…” might work, the important part is that you acknowledge the players initiative and contribution to the current scenario. (For more info about improv techniques, why not start out with this article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Improvisational_theatre#Structure_and_process).
But sometimes the GM says “No”. The player may either accept this, or make a gamble:
- Gambles are made by playing Black Jack
- The starting bet is 3 cigarettes (tokens)
- Whenever a phrase on the character sheets implies that the character would perform better at/be favoured in whatever we gamble about, the player may reduce her bet by one
- A player may also pay a cigarette to the GM at any time during the gamble to replace one of the cards in play with her chosen court card. (Any card in play; their own, another player’s or even the GM’s.)
If the player wins the gamble, the GM goes back on their opposition. But as the game progresses, the players will be milked slowly but surely of their tokens, until they no longer are able to make a gamble against the GM. A player are however allowed to spend their last cigarette (token) to automatically succeed a final(!) task – going out in style.
Did it work?
Yes, actually it did run pretty smoothly. Then again, story-games are often dependant on the social dynamics within the group rather than actual game mechanics. But as a conflict resolver, it worked quite well. I do have a couple of reflections worth mentioning, and they’ll influence further development of the game prototype, as GM/player guidelines or rules-tweaks.
Say “no” more often. It sounds really stupid, but the GM should throw quite a lot of obstacles in the players path, forcing the players to make gambles only when they really want them. This’ll be successively more important the further you’re into the game – the lesser cigarettes (tokens) they will have left to gamble with. Also, encourage players to initiate gambles themselves instead of offering it when turning their actions down. Player initiative is crucial.
Lift the scope from one-shots. We didn’t reach a conclusion during our 4 hour sitting. I managed to milk about a fourth or third of their alloted tokens. But the pace did feel quite appropriate. Perhaps the ideal amount of assumed game-time would be 2-3 sessions, trying to emulate the three-act structure. I’m not entirely in favour of reducing the amount of alloted tokens from 20 either. The players ought to feel empowered at the start of play, being able to “pay to win” their gambles.
Reorder the token economy. To emphasize the characters ability to defeat the opposition, based on the phrases we define in prep, perhaps toss around the economy of tokens and court cards a bit – having a fixed betting amount and then only allowing the player to replace cards with their chosen card only if they have a befitting phrase to invoke. Perhaps raise the (initial) bet value as time goes by, like with the blinds in Texas ‘hold em. This needs to be tested and trialed further.
I believe I did not succeed in slaying the Naga Demon before winter. I may have inflicted a griveous wound upon it, yet had not the strength to pursue it into the lands of ice and snow, and end its foul dominion over November. I will recuperate, regroup and revisit the prototype until an official release can be issued. This sword will not be reforged to a plow. Not yet.
Last week came and went without much progress on this project. I couldn’t get a small group together until Sunday. This post will focus on my experience trying to present and explain the conceptual aspects of the game to my players, as well as making characters.
But first, I had better explain it roughly to you as well.
First off, credit where credit’s due. Much of this is either inspired or derived from either The Pool or mods and hacks of that system, such as The Puddle. To summarize: the players ability to affect – and control – the outcome of the story is much larger than in traditional role-playing games and the character sheets are reduced to little more than descriptive phrases.
Meeting up last Sunday, we started out by talking about what kind of world I had envisioned. I guess it could summarized as: a historically accurate portrayal of early 20th century, and whenever things are not historically accurate, it’s because magic. We don’t hand-wave it, we get up and make cart-wheels around it.
Also, this is a game designed to rely heavily on improvisation – both from players and GM alike. The mood and tropes of film noir would serve as our main crutch and starting point of improv, and the high-fantasy was our main tool for messing around with the tropes in question. So, we finally sat down without any kind of prep whatsoever, except one thing – a question:
“Four-finger Elric was fished out of the docks last night. Why is that really bad news for your character?”
I didn’t know. I didn’t even know who Elric was, why he apparently had four fingers, nor what the normal amount of fingers ought to have been. Any eventual questions about it from them was gently but firmly returned to sender. When they caught on, we all brainstormed a bit and the final result was a great twist on the “sleeping with the fishes”-trope. Elric was a slimy character living at the waterfront. Of amphibian heritage, “slick as an eel”, yet snatched from his home by unknown assailants. The perceived murder-mystery had suddenly become a kidnapping-conundrum.
The GM should not establish more facts other than presented in the initial question. She may join in with suggestion and questions, taking notes for future (a)buse, and could (read: should) act as a moderating party, re-focusing the discussion on the question at hand – why is this really bad for the characters? Being really bad, it should: a) not be something you can ignore in hopes of it blowing over and b) neither something you can simply run away from.
Whatever consequences this missing amphibian hustler may have, they need to require action from the characters we were about to create. This is still more or less an open discussion, with all participants talking and contributing at the table. Explaining why the characters are forced to act should hopefully produce more details about the player characters themselves, as well as other persons or factions that may affect future events in the city. From this, we will define a couple of phrases:
- “Race and class”
- A phrase that ties into why it was such bad news
Let’s start with number one. This is best pronounced with wildly exaggerated finger-quotes attached to it. What I aimed for was to give the players a way to acquire racial and professional traits for their character. Or rather, to trigger associations to either the nature or the perceived skill-sets associated with archetypical races and classes in role-playing games:
A dwarf is short, but sturdy, and quite resilient to poison. A rogue might represent a street-smart hustler, surviving by wit, charm and sleight of hand – or the occasional pocket-sized revolver hidden on their person. An elf is slim and agile, and renowned for their marksmanship. A paladin might represent a clean cop, trying to maintain law and order while guided by moral conviction, but nevertheless tempted daily to act both judge and juror in the fight against corruption. However, we’re not limited to traditional DnD-classes or anything in its ilk. A “class” could be whatever has a good set of skills associated with it.
Whenever a racial trait or professional skill implies that the character would perform better at whatever the GM trials them with, the player is free to take advantage of that.
How this advantage manifests mechanically in game will be discussed in the next post. Sorry.
The second phrase we’ll define is a little bit trickier, so we’ll use my players examples and reflect upon those:
First we had Roghan, a drow cleaner that got “I keep my word” as his second phrase. The explanation was that he was a hitman employed to make sure that Four-finger Elric kept his mouth shut about something. Preferably taking whatever he knew to the grave. The bad news was that it wasn’t Roghan who found him first and his professional reputation depended on ensuring that the secret in question was kept… well, secret. That also implies that the character is someone who is proud, trustworthy and dedicated – and people in the biz knows this and respects it.
Then we had Reïn, a drow paladin fallen from grace who got “This concerns not only me, but my whole family” as his second phrase. The character had spent time in prison for passionate murder and Elric kept something hidden for him while in jail. Something of great importance not only to himself, but to his whole family, and should it fall into the wrong hands, he would surely forever be persona non grata in the eyes of the clan matriarchs. Apart from presenting an immediate need to retrieve this object, it also established his family as a faction of great importance, attaching a bit of manners, money and fame to the character as well. Or at least his surname.
Now, the exact wording of the phrases are not that important. The real importance is that both player and GM have a shared understanding of what the phrase is supposed to represent. And as with the first phrase above, whenever the phrase – and what it represents – implies that the character would perform better at whatever the GM trials them with, the player is free to take advantage of that as well.
Worth contemplating is that their explanations often were as sketchy as written out above. We didn’t establish the secret Elric knew, nor the nature of the object he was keeping safe. We didn’t even establish who hired the hitman, nor the nature of influence this apparent family of nobles wielded in the city. This isn’t necessarily a bad (or plain lazy) thing. Leaving it open gives the GM – or even other players – the opportunity to improvise from that which was established in prep. Being the GM, your job is instead to encourage the brainstorming and guiding them back to the original question if needed. But above all else, you take notes. Lot’s of notes. All these unanswered questions will be a handy framework for introducing new twists and turns in the game later on.
Finally, we let the players make up a third phrase that could be whatever they wanted – as long as it was highly characteristic for their roles. It could be unique skills, relationships, belongings, titles, convictions – as long as we could find a couple of possible scenarios where it could come into play, it’s good.
The hitman got “Never without a spare tool hidden on my person”, that would not only ensure he had a multitude of hidden weapons, it also defines him as a resourceful person that carefully prepares and plans actions in advance. (If both player and GM is clear about that, then the GM is of course “obligated” to punish the character for rash or ill-prepared actions *cue evil laughter*)
The disgraced noble got “Mama’s boy”, which not only gives him a powerful ally in a family ruled by matriarchs, but also gives him a manipulative streak and quite skilled at “appealing to authority”. (Since the family is loosely defined thus far, the GM is free to introduce jealous siblings later on in the game *cue evil-er laughter*)
As with the other phrases, whenever this phrase – and what it represents – implies that the character would perform better at whatever the GM trials them with, the player is free to take advantage of that as well.
That’s the prep. Next post will be about conflict resolution and improv-gaming.