Wednesday, July 27, 2011

In Which The Warlock Muses on Mechanics...

Since returning from our trip to Pennsylvania two weeks ago, I've been plugging away at Cold Steel Wardens to the tune of 3,000 words a day, on average.  Occasionally, I'll take a day off--usually to play in Will the ManMan's Deadlands game or to take in one of the summer blockbusters--but my 5,000-6,000 word-per-day spikes more than make up for those. 

Writing all of this from scratch has actually made me a little more respectful for the role-playing game authors who have come before.  The vast majority of modern games--D&D, for instance--has entire teams of writers on staff, which allows individuals to focus on individual sections, then exchange those sections for revision and editing.  That's precisely how things worked, with my fellow Cubicle 7 freelancers--after one of us finished a piece, it was uploaded to a private GoogleDocs group, for others to read and offer suggestions.

However, I don't have a team for Cold Steel Wardens.  It's just me.  And that's led to me to realize quite a few things:

  • Writing equipment sucks.  In all seriousness, it's a giant table.  You'd figure that it'd be easy, right?  Wrong.  It's tedious, doesn't fit well in a Word document, and there's always some aspect of it that you're forgetting.  You want to offer enough options to keep "hardcore" gamers happy, but be streamlined enough to avoid the problems of a game like Stargate SG-1 d20, which has pages upon pages of equipment rules.
  • Options create complexity.  The more options you have, the more complex the game becomes.  Makes sense, right?  Problem is, gamers want options.  Even in seemingly simple games like ICONS or even Call of Cthulhu, players crave the ability to have different abilities and different focuses.  After all, no one wants to play the same character time after time, right?  However, for every additional option that I input--for every Mastery that alters a Skill's use or Optional Effect for a base Power--things get more complex.  That makes writing difficult, to say the least.
  • If I pull this off, I'm going to expand the rules-set into a "generic" system for investigation.  The MAFIANAP mechanics that I've created are really streamlined and hand-built to focus on low-powered, street-level supers, and criminal investigations.  A sourcebook, similar to the Savage Worlds--Explorers' Edition, would be spectacular in this regard--something to put out the mechanics, minus the setting info and the like, in a way that would be useful for games meant to emulate shows like 24, Burn Notice, and Leverage as well as comics like Sin City
  • The biggest test for me is going to be a matter of replicating the characters that were an inspiration for this game:  Green Arrow and Black Canary, The Question, Huntress, Batman, Daredevil, Marv and Dwight from Sin City, Captain America, and several others.  If I can build them accurately with this system, I know I'll have done a great job.
  • Balance is an illusion, until it hits play.  I've done my best, so far, to keep options balanced.  A Hero in CSW with no powers will have more points to spend on Vitals, Skills, and Masteries than a Hero with quite a few Powers.  However, I know that the real test of balance comes in playtesting.  I'm hoping to have the rules-set playable by the end of August, in time for an alpha-test campaign at Witt this semester...
But, it's all coming together, and that's what important!  Here's for hoping that someone wants to publish my little brainchild once it's done...

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