All Men Must Die

Tl;dr: All Men Must Die is cool and you should definitely check it out!

http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/189499/All-Men-Must-Die?manufacturers_id=8351

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I’d been toying with the idea of creating a GoT/Undying hack for a couple of years, but couldn’t figure out how to make the various mechanics of Undying fit with the genre. It clicked for me when I was watching the first episode of this season of Game of Thrones – I figured out how to connect the fiction to the game mechanics.

AMMD is inspired by the narrative patterns of GoT.

  • Your character is important to the overall story arc, but may not be important to society (in a status sense), but that’s for you to decide. that’s because your character has a Destiny
  • Destiny is a thing you decide for your character, but you declare it to the table in the form of portents from the gods. it changes as you do
  • Your character becomes powerful, then is broken, then suffers, then finds purpose, and then becomes powerful again. We see this over and over, where a character doesn’t die, but suffers terrible consequences instead.

AMMD uses Fate (not the game Fate, rather fate, the concept) as its core scarcity – like Blood for Undying. Fate is the currency of character agency in the fiction… or to say it in non-designer speak: Fate is what allows a character to get what they want on their terms.

AMMD has Conviction (Humanity) and Influence (Status). Conviction is the measure of your will to persevere. The higher your Conviction, the stronger your drive and purpose and the better prepared you are to fulfill your Destiny. Influence is the measure of your sway over others. The higher your Influence, the better able you are to interfere with others or to shape their course.

AMMD presents its own take on Debts: Oaths. An oath is a promise you swear to fulfill. An Oath is made from one character to another and, when the oath maker acts toward the fulfillment of the oath, the Fate they spend counts for double, giving them a decisive advantage.

And lastly, AMMD changes up the Feed/Blood cycle with the Reflect/Fate cycle. As with Feed, your character shares an intimate moment; but, with Reflect, it’s a shared, vulnerable moment where hidden truths about those characters are revealed.

There’s more to it, and that’s one of the things that really excites me about the game: there’s a whole bunch of interesting stuff packed into a two-sided character/move sheet!

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Hacking Undying

So you want to hack Undying, awesome!

I’m really excited to see how people take the thoughts I penned in Undying and transform them into new and better ones! Please tell me all about it!

If you’re interested in hacking Undying, there are a few things you need to know, outlined below.

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What if you want to hack Undying, without actually selling it?

The text of Undying is released under a Creative Commons Attribution – Noncommercial License and you can download a free copy of it here or you can buy the full version on DTRPG here. Under this license, you are free to do whatever you want with the text of Undying and you may do so without seeking my permission — because I’ve already given it to you through this license — provided:

  1. You do not seek commercial benefit or material compensation from your use of the text
  2. You attribute the original work to me, Paul Riddle. You may also provide a link to
    1. My blog at enigmamachinations.com
    2. My g+ community
    3. My Undying Facebook page
    4. Or, if you want to link to some other content, please contact me first
  3. You do not use any of the following (which are copyrighted and/or outside the scope of this license)
    1. Undying Kickstarter stretch goals (without explicit permission from their creator)
    2. Undying artwork, line art or figures, or other graphical and design elements
    3. Layout or design elements taken directly from the PDF (if you copy, that’s mine; if you create your own, that’s yours)

Otherwise, you’re all set!

But, what if you do want to sell it?

  1. If you want to make a new thing that doesn’t use Undying’s words or graphical assets directly, then that’s your own creation and you don’t need anyone’s permission to do that!
  2. If you want to make and sell a playset, a playbook, or something of that nature, that has some of Undying’s content embedded in it, but is mostly your own creation, please get in touch with me. You’ll need my permission to use the words of Undying, but I’m happy to have your help expanding the brand.
  3. If you want extensive use of Undying’s words or graphical assets, then you need my permission and you’ll need to negotiate a license agreement with me.

Undying is copyrighted, and that, in conjunction with the CC license described above, protects Undying from unauthorized commercial use.

When and how should I contact you about permissions?

The best way to get in touch with me is a private message on g+. That’s also the best way to stay connected. From there, we’ll go to email or something.

If you’re only using a little content, like with a playbook or playset, please don’t contact me until you have a solid product. The odds of me saying no to you at that point are low. I won’t entertain discussions about conceptual products or for early drafts that may never turn into products.

If you’re interested in using a lot of content, like with a translation, you’ll definitely want to contact me before you get started; but, please don’t contact me about it yet. Sorry. I appreciate your enthusiasm, but I’m just not ready to start having those discussions. I’ll post an update when I am.

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Undying Update

Today I delivered the PDF version of Undying to Kickstarter backers!

In keeping with my promise to release Undying under a Creative Commons license, I’ve also updated the free text edition of the game on my website! You can find the game and character sheets here:

Undying Free Text Edition (NSFW)

Undying Character Sheets

If you want to read it, read it! If you want to play it, please do — and please tell me about it! Game designers love it when you tell them you’ve played their game😉

If you want to buy the pretty version, that will be an option soon. My first priority is delivering the goods to my Kickstarter backers. So, right now, that means getting the physical copies of the books done. Once that’s potted, then I’ll make PDF and softcover versions of the game available for purchase through DTRPG.

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Musings and Game Design Madness

Preface

Game design is a mild form of mental illness. You think you’re rational and sane and, therefore, the things that you write must also be and are, of course, right-minded. But, they’re not. When you look at something you wrote in the past, your reaction is never, “Go  me, I did a good thing!” No. No, that’s never the reaction. The reaction is, “This is fucking garbage, why did I write that?” Yeah, so that thing I said was pretty much potted – the Connections stretch goal – isn’t, because game designer reasons. Fear not, I’m on it!

So, before I get into that, let me first say that the stretch goal I’m talking about is the one where Undying might just play more like an episode of Vampire Diaries. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, stop reading now. Watch it or don’t, but do before you go further.

OK, now that we’re on the same page, here’s what I said about the stretch goal in my Kickstarter, “Connections brings the drama between predator and prey. Your connection is a person who means as much to you as unlife itself. Connections is inspired by the vampire TV genre. This expansion adds a completely revised set of moves, based on a early playtest edition of Undying, that give you the tools to explore a predator’s emotional connection to prey.” I portrayed this as a thing that was mostly done. At the time this was true. Now it’s not. I’m re-writing it. That’s how game design goes.

This will make sense later: don’t stop believing is now playing on my Pandora station…

 

Game Design in Action

What I’m about to share with you is an example of my game design process in action. Fair to say that I’ve been noodling on this for a few days now, reviewing my old manuscript – and largely jettisoning it.

A note about my process: words in my head are a distraction. Words on paper are a burden. Only words in electronic form have utility. So, the act of creation for me is extracting meddlesome words from my head and typing them into my word processor, so that I can clear room for new thoughts. Repeat.

Purple haze…

What follows is a transcript, if you will, of a live action game design effort I did tonight. My goal, breakthrough thinking: establish the key principle that defines a predator’s relationship with their connection – a special person in their unlife. It starts with:

 

What the fuck do you do with a Connection? And why the fuck should you care?

Do you build scenes with them? If so, what do you gain from it?

Do you create problems for them? If so, how do you fix them?

Is it just that they (and other predators) cause problems for you? If so, why have a connection at all?

Do you have a move that deals with your relationship at all? Is it just negative space in the design? Does that make the whole system too mechanical?

The answer is humanity. Hard part: what’s the right question?

Mmmm Woodinville rye.

OK, let’s say you have a move that lets you call for a humanity vote following a scene with your connection. What’s the trigger? Is the default state either fixing or fucking up your relationship? What if you have to choose some really emo shit, like betraying an unknown truth about you, sharing your real feelings (or lack thereof) about them, show that you understand and care for them?

Yessssssss! When the levee breaks just hit my Pandora feed! 8 minutes to crank out a move. Oh fuck, bohemian rhapsody! This is the miracle moment – squeeeeeee! Damn it, whiskey’s empty again, shit! Won’t get fooled again – Christ, this is the most epic Paul music trilogy ever! “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss!” In my time of dying! The gods surely smile upon me! And to wrap this up, For those about to rock, we salute you!

In the span of the songs listed above, which, admittedly, is like 2,000 hours, the winner is…

 

Test your Relationship

When you share a close or tense moment with your connection, say what happens and then answer one or more of the following questions, you choose:

  • What hitherto unknown truths (or secrets) about yourself do you reveal? Do you try to hide it?
  • What honest feelings about them shine through?
  • Do you show them that you understand and care for them? How?
  • Do you put their needs and wants before your own? How?
  • In what ways do you nurture them?
  • What personal baggage to you dump on them?
  • What risks do you face together? Are they your savior, your partner, your arm candy, or are they just a victim?
  • How do you (or don’t you) value them when dealing with other predators?

The GM considers each answer you give; weighs your connection’s feelings; and then, in secret, chooses one and takes note:

  • They really get me! Mark +1.
  • Meh. Mark 0.
  • They really don’t get me / they’re a dick / they’re full of shit. Mark -1.

For each question they should have answered, but didn’t, mark -1. Then, sum the total.

  • If it’s >0, your relationship improves 1 step or stays close.
  • If it’s 0, nothing changes – on balance the two of you stagnate.
  • If it’s <0, your relationship trait worsens 1 step or stays hostile.

Tell them if or how their relationship trait has changed and then describe their connection’s reaction. Are they happy, sad, angry, depressed, in denial, or in doubt?

 

Conclusions

In my design process, a good hour or two, some tasty booze, and some good tunes leads to breakthroughs. Welcome to my madness!

And now, sweet home Alabama… that’s just how this night’s going. Whiskey glass is empty again… gotta fix that.

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Undying Game Design Philosophy

I was asked about my game design philosophy for Undying, so I figured I’d share my thoughts on that subject publicly. This isn’t a manifesto – I’m not trying to incite a game design revolution (Vincent Baker already accomplished that). This isn’t a treatise either – I’m not looking to join the ranks of the game designer philosopher’s club (there are plenty of folks out there who do a better job of it). I don’t really enjoy talking about game design on the internet or while sober (ply me with a frosty IPA of at least 60 IBUs or a single malt of at least 12 years and I’ll gladly bend your ear… until my glass is empty).

These are just my thoughts on a thing that I did, for anyone who wants to know.

I’ll start with a picture.

Figure 1

The principles of Undying’s design are these:

  1. Start with a compelling concept for the experience (what people get out of playing the game), the theme (what the game is about), and the tone (the sad, silly, serious, etc. light that the theme is presented in) and distill, through discovery and playtesting, a crisp understanding of each.
  2. Design rules that codify the experience, the theme, and the tone in the protocols of game play. Further, eschew, without regard to expectation or tradition, any rules or other features that are not consistent with and strictly necessary to codify the experience, the theme, and the tone.
  3. Integrate the theme, the tone, and the experience together to mutually support each other
    1. In the rules, as internally consistent and self-reinforcing mechanisms of game play,
    2. In the game text that explains what the game is about, how to prepare for playing the game, and how to play the game, and
    3. At the game table itself, through an intuitive and quickly understood design, that the people playing the game can correctly and consistently practice.
  4. Communicate the rules, the experience, the theme, and the tone clearly and concisely in a readable and entertaining manuscript.
  5. Be open, honest, and frank with the people who consume and contribute to your game.

Lather, rinse, repeat. Use playtesting, peer reviews, and your gut to refine the design until you think it is either good enough or not good at all, and then take the next steps accordingly.

That’s pretty much it.

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Announcing Undying!

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The moment you’ve been waiting for, Undying is about to launch! Undying will be Kickstarted next Tuesday (6/23/15) and will feature an exclusive hardcover edition, check out the Kickstarter page!

Undying Free Text Edition (NSFW) This is the free text version of the game. You can read all about Undying and decide for yourself if you want to back the Kickstarter.

Undying Playbooks This is the set of play materials, including playbooks and move sheets. Includes a Quickstart playset featuring pre-generated characters and story prompts designed to get you off and running in minutes! Perfect for convention games and one-shots!

 

Stay Connected!

g+ (+Paul Riddle) – Undying Community Page

Twitter (@PaulSRiddle)

FacebookUndying Facebook Page

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Finished Writing Undying!

After 5 long years, I’ve finally finished writing Undying!

Over Memorial Day Weekend, Ryan Macklin and Lily Cohen-Moore wrapped up their editing and sent me comments and, over the next several days, I got most of the way there. After that major surge, I hit the wall and took a few days off, finishing just yesterday.

Drake Kaiser is just about done with the second round of art – mostly to illustrate a few extended examples of meddling, hunting, and feeding. I am really pleased with how the art and the writing mesh! Here’s a teaser…
8a

 

Ryan Dunleavy is cooking up some brilliance! The KS video he’s putting together is nothing short of astounding!

The last hold-up is selecting a printer and getting a quote and then working up the numbers. I sent out some feelers yesterday and I’m getting responses in already. So, fingers crossed, I’m still hoping to launch Undying this month!

 

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Undying Update

Things are coming together! The game is post-development and in pre-production, getting ready for a Kickstarter this summer!

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In Case You Didn’t Know…

Undying is a diceless roleplaying game about vampires. Undying combines lean design; with visceral PVP and PVE; and a real-time / downtime split that lets you play moment-by-moment and century-by-century, quickly and seamlessly.

You can find a playtest draft of the game here!

 

Where I’m At

The game design is complete. The book is written and in editing. Kickstarter video script is drafted, KS page text is in work.

 

What’s Going On Right Now

I’m working with some awesome designers on stretch goals! There’s some really great stuff brewing, but you’ll have to wait ‘til the project launches to find out!

Also, even more art! Drake Kaiser, my brilliant artist, is working on another round of art for the book. Now, over 40 full page pieces!

 

What’s Next

When the editing is done – hopefully in a few weeks – I’m going to take a couple of days off work and plow through the comments. Goal: get to done! John Harper, my guru in all things, will work some layout and design magic and help me with the print rep.

 

When Will You Get A Sneak Peak

Near term, as soon as I get the editing incorporated, I will release a preview with updated playbooks and move sheets as well as basic instructions for play – Lite Undying, if you will. Long term, the text will be available under a creative commons non-commercial license, so you can freely read, play, and hack.

 

When’s The Kickstarter

Hopefully, June. The biggest challenges to meeting that date are 1) getting the book done 2) getting the financials figured out 3) becoming a dad: my wife and I are expecting at the end of July. So, yeah, exciting times!

 

Castle (web)

 

 

Stay In The Loop

My blog at www.enigmamachinations.com

g+ Undying Community

Facebook Undying Page

 

Or Follow me…

+Paul Riddle on g+

@PaulSRiddle on Twitter

 

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The Regiment — Armored Warfare

So, I got to thinking about the Regiment and posted to g+ about it. Chris Bennett reminded me of the work I did on an armor add-on for the WWII (v2.1) version of the Regiment. I don’t think I ever posted it publicly, because when I wrote it, two years ago, the thought was John and I’d release it as a supplement after publishing the core game.

At this point, and I think John would agree, the focus of the Regiment is about the soldier on the ground. The tanks thing just doesn’t fit with our concept for the game. So, why not share?

Caveat emptor: this draft has never really been playtested, so deal with it. If nothing else, enjoy the tank porn!

The Regiment – Vehicle Rules

Happy hunting!

Posted in Role Playing Game, Role Playing Game Design, RPG, The Regiment | 2 Comments

Status Update [Undying]

Hi all! It’s been awhile, but progress has been made. First off, Drake Kaiser is done with all the art for the book and it’s looking great! Here are a couple of teasers😉

Burning Vampire (web) Castle (web)

I’ve added Nate Marcel to the team for a special painting of Seattle burning in the Great Seattle Fire of 1889. This is for the starter play set for Undying, called “Seattle: Flesh and Fire.” Nate says he’s going to post about the creation process on his blog, so check out Nate’s Notes and Nate’s new web comic, Danger Tide!

John Harper, my good friend and partner in crime on the Regiment, will be doing the layout!

Cheers,

Paul

Posted in Role Playing Game, Role Playing Game Design, RPG, Undying | 2 Comments