Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Accio Attributes! (Tales of Hogwarts 3)

No Tales from the Loop game this week, but I have been continuing my thoughts of using the game system to run Harry Potter.

Many, many moons ago, when I first started thinking about Harry Potter as a tabletop roleplaying game, I started working out what Attributes and Skills would work the best for the game. After initially planning on using a simplified version of the Vortex system, the system I'd developed for Cubicle 7's Doctor Who RPG (Adventures in Time and Space), I thought about just having four Attributes - one for each Hogwarts House.

You can see from the initial character sheet I'd designed that the Hogwarts crest on the little "report card" didn't have the usual illustrations of the four house animals - they were blank for you to write the Attributes in! (Bet you didn't notice that the many times I'd posted that picture!!!)

The original idea for the character sheet was a report card - note the houses on the crest are empty to fill in values!
Originally, as you can see in the image, I'd thought of having Brave, Shrewd, Loyal and Wise as Attributes.

Let's come back up to date and look at how I've been stripping the Tales from the Loop system down to use for Harry Potter.


Tales from the Loop, and the other games that use the system, have four Attributes. I really liked the Mind Attribute to reflect how smart your character is, and the Heart Attribute that's used when you're being empathic or interacting with your friends...

Wait... A smart Attribute, and a friendship Attribute... sounding like I was on the right track all those years ago...

That leaves two Attributes. If you think of the physical things the characters in Harry Potter do, they're either being daring and brave - flying, punching Draco, heading into dangerous places, hanging out of flying cars, etc. Or, they're investigating - sneaking about, finding stuff, etc.

I'd already decided there wouldn't be a Magic Attribute (as it'd be the God Attribute that everyone would pump all of their points into and try to be the all powerful lord of magic). So that means that the remaining two Attributes would again be physical (but not entirely)...

But it's just what I had before. So now it's just a case of narrowing down names. So, to put it in Tales from the Loop terminology, the Attributes now look like this:

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Attributes

Your student is defined by four Attributes that help you overcome Trouble and continue your studies at Hogwarts. The Attributes are: Brave, Cunning, Loyal and Wise. Attribute scores range from 1 to 5.

Brave - is the student's ability to face danger, swing the sword of Gryffindor at the basilisk, punch the bully in the nose, run down a corridor when the ceiling is collapsing, fly a broom in a storm, climb, or hold your ground. This is the highest Attribute in most Gryffindor students.
Cunning - is the ability to sneak around the corridors at night, pinch vital ingredients from the potions class supplies, deduce strange puzzles, make a sneaky attack when duelling, bluff your way out of trouble, distract someone, or convince them to do something for your own benefit. This is the highest Attribute of most Slytherin students.
Loyal - is all about the student's relationships, understanding what they are thinking, making friends, know the right people, helping them to overcome their problems, and reassure them when they doubt their actions. This is the highest Attribute of most Hufflepuff students.
Wise - is about knowledge, learning and understanding. This is the ability to learn, study, deduce, solve riddles, understand clues and remember the vital information needed at the right time. This is usually the highest Attribute of most Ravenclaw students.

The highest Attribute you have at character creation (and therefore, when you are sorted) will determine the house you are sorted into at Hogwarts. Simply, if your Wise Attribute is the highest Attribute you have, you'll be sorted into Ravenclaw. It's not always the case, there are always exceptions to the rules (and Hatstands, as they are called). If a player really wants to play a Ravenclaw whose Loyal is the highest Attribute, as long as the GM agrees there's nothing to stop them. (Personally, I'd say that's what happened with Luna!)

That's Attributes "sorted" if you pardon the pun. Next time, we'll look at Skills...

Until next time, stay multi-classy!!


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Breaking the Rules (Tales of Hogwarts 2)

Having one of those "What's the frelling point?" days today, looking at WILD and feeling like it's all nonsense and that no one will ever want to read it or play it. One of the problems sometimes of having too many ideas and not enough motivation or the means to go through with it.

The t-shirt I was wearing for last night's Tales from the Loop game -
Bonus points if you recognise the 80's movie it is from!

As a means of distraction, I've been continuing my thoughts of using the Tales from the Loop system to create a Harry Potter RPG. We had another excellent game of Tales from the Loop last night, resolving one of the plots of the many we'd uncovered in the mystery landscape.

Last post, I started discussing how the Pride and Luck rationing could be tweaked to better reflect the Kids' time at Hogwarts, rather than out in the field filled with bizarre technology and weirdness.

The next stage is taking a look at the Attributes and Skills used in Tales from the Loop and seeing what needs to be changed to suit Harry Potter.

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It's strange, but I had weird flashbacks to Star Trek. A couple of years ago, when I first started talking to Modiphius about working on Star Trek, they told me it would be done using their 2D20 system and I should take a look at that and see how it could be adapted to suit Star Trek.

The first thing I did was look at the 2D20 games they had published, or were in the works, to start "breaking the rules" - so to speak. Breaking the rules down into their components to see how it works. A sort of reverse-engineering.

I looked at Mutant Chronicles, Infinity, Conan and John Carter, knowing that they wanted a level of complexity in the middle of the range (if Infinity/MC was the complex end, and John Carter was 2D20 "lite"). First thing I did was make notes of what Attributes and Skills were used for each incarnation of 2D20, and see what related to what.

My original notes during the early phases of Star Trek Adventures development
looking at the various incarnations of 2D20


I also took a long look at the previous incarnations of Star Trek - the FASA, Last Unicorn Games and Decipher versions - and looked to see what they had considered essential skills and attributes in their interpretations of Trek.

More of my original notes, looking at the previous versions of Star Trek
and how they broke down the skills and attributes.


Eventually, I came up with six Attributes, and the six "skills" (which were basically the posts on the crew, two for each Star Fleet Division). The Attributes were Bravery, Control, Empathy, Presence, Reason, and Resilience. And the "skills" were Command, Conn, Medical, Science, Engineering, and Security.

Those Attributes changed shortly after I left the project, but you get the idea of where I was going with it.

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I started doing the same with Tales from the Loop. I knew the system was used by a couple of other excellent games - Mutant: Year Zero, and Coriolis - so I thought I'd look and see what Attributes and Skills were used for each of these games.

However, looking at the Attributes and Skills gave me the same feeling I had when I first started picking at 2D20 for Star Trek...

FREE YOUR MIND...

And by that, I wanted to take the ties off. One of the first things I suggested for Star Trek was to untie the relationship between Attribute and Skill. Sure, it means that some players will want to always use their strongest Attribute to do anything, but the situation will determine if a certain Attribute or Skill comes into play.

I used a simple example for this -

Say you want to lift a rock. Bear in mind, this is for the original Star Trek Attributes, not the ones they went for finally as I'm more familiar with my version...

If you want to lift a rock to hit someone with it, you'd use Resilience and Security (as it's combat).
If you want to lift a rock off of someone who is pinned, you'd use Resilience and Medicine.
If you want to lift a rock off of someone while lava is approaching, you could use Bravery and Medicine.
If you wanted to lift a rock to see what is underneath, you'd use Reason and Science.
If you wanted to lift a rock to by wedging something under it and levering it free you'd use Resilience and Engineering.

You get the gist.

Looking at the system used in Loop and the other games, the skills are firmly tied to an attribute... I'm quite keen to break those ties as the first stage.

I'd also like to use similar Attributes to Tales from the Loop - but Tech needs replacing. Next comes the big issue which I'll be pondering over the week - what should replace Tech? Would a Magic Attribute be too powerful?

Hmmm... I'm going to think about that, and look in depth again at the breakdown of Charms, Jinxes and Curses ready for the next post. (As well as going back to writing WILD - after all, there's a lot more chance of WILD seeing the light of day than there is a Harry Potter game!!)

Until next time, stay multi-classy!




Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Mysterious Beginnings (Tales of Hogwarts 1)

Another awesome game of Tales from the Loop last night had me thinking again of using the game to play in the wizarding world of Harry Potter...

Original ideas for character sheet for a
Harry Potter RPG
Instead of me just getting frustrated that the game doesn't exist, I just figured I'd pop my ideas down here in a "thinking out loud" way so you could see which direction I was heading in.

There are a few sticking points when it comes to tweaking the Tales from the Loop system to working with Harry Potter. Of course, the big question would be how magic works, but I'll come to that later. 

First of all, the basics.

Luck


In Tales from the Loop, the older you are, the more experienced you are and the more capable you are of doing things. Age means you've learned more, can do more, and sometimes people take you a little more seriously. You also get more points to put into your Attributes. As you grow, your Attributes increase too.

To balance this, the characters have a "Luck" stat which allows them to reroll when they've failed. Your "kid" (as the characters are called) is aged between 10 and 15 years old, but your starting Luck is equal to 15 minus your age. So if you're 10 years old, you have 5 Luck points, etc. My character in the game we're playing at the moment is 13, so has 2 Luck Points at the beginning of each session.

In Harry Potter, we follow the characters longer during their time at Hogwarts, so the easiest option for this is to allow more Luck Points (mostly because they will not have the benefit of an "Iconic Item" - more on that later). So, I'm going with your Luck being equal to 8 minus your year at Hogwarts. So first years start with 8-1 = 7 Luck Points at the beginning of each session, and a fourth year starts with 8-4 = 4 Luck Points.

Pride


Pride is a really interesting stat in Tales from the Loop. It's something that gives you a boost, makes you feel strong, or awesome. It's usually something that motivates the character, but it is also used to give you an automatic success if you think your Pride comes into play in a particular circumstance in your game. You only get it once per Mystery, but using it also means you get XP.

Instead of Pride, I figured you could replace it with House. The pupil's House in Hogwarts is important, and a source of pride. You could list the descriptors for each house as follows -
 
Gryffindor - Bravery, Chivalry, Courage.
Hufflepuff - Loyalty, Kindness, Honesty.
Ravenclaw - Wisdom, Creativity, Originality.
Slytherin - Cunning, Ambition, Leadership.

If your student acts in keeping with their House, they can use the benefits just like Pride.

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I'll follow this up in coming weeks with a look at tweaking the Attributes and Skills to suit the wizarding world.

Before I finish though, I thought I'd share a little document I found on my hard drive. Over a year ago (the date on the file is January 2017) I'd had another surge of determination about the Harry Potter RPG. I'd started to think that maybe the game could get to the licensing stage if the words "roleplaying" were omitted from any pitch. 

That in mind, I started to think of the game as a mystery game, with components that basically acted as character sheets and so on for a traditional roleplaying game, that could be promoted and marketed as a family mystery game. Players control pupils at Hogwarts, and attend classes, learning the skills they need to solve an overarching mystery. Expansions could add further years and more lessons and mysteries...

Nearly a year before the mobile game with a very similar name would be announced I created this document for Harry Potter: Mysteries of Hogwarts game. I've posted a copy below so you can see what I had in mind...

Click to enlarge, this is the pitch I started in Jan 2017...

Until next time, be excellent to each other.

- Dave

Monday, April 30, 2018

Tales from the Wizarding School

It has been a while since my last post - I'm sorry. A combination of actually doing work on the WILD RPG (tweaking the Attributes and Abilities) and being convinced that no one actually reads the blog.

I haven't really had much to talk about on here for a while, but recently my mind has been wandering back to familiar territories thanks to a couple of games.

Tales from the Loop RPG
Our epic Star Wars: Force and Destiny game came to a suitably awesome end, and recently we've started playing Fria Ligan's Tales from the Loop. You'll have heard about it by now - it has won many awards (deservedly so), based upon the amazing paintings of Simon Stålenhag. Set in an "80's that never was" this is Stranger Things meets robots, time travel, dinosaurs, mind control, and super-science, all in small town Sweden (or wherever you want to set it) with kids riding around on bikes and investigating stuff.

I've been wanting to play this for ages, since reading the rules months ago and finding them so simple and intuitive that it really appealed - especially as I love simple and quick rules systems.

Not only does the game encourage characters to have a "Drive", a "Problem" and a "Pride" which all come into play in the way the characters act and are motivated, but it also has a proportion of the character sheet and character creation dedicated to "relationships". You define how you know each other, and other people in the town, and you gain experience for putting yourself at risk to help your friends.

Within a session we were running around, bickering like thirteen-year-olds, and coming up with bizarre plans and pissing off the teachers from the school. Brilliant!

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You know what else has teenage kids at school solving mysteries?

Harry Potter. Yeah, had to get back to my little gaming obsession. I got thinking about how the friendships and relationships from Tales From the Loop would work with Harry Potter (and a lot of the rest of the system to be honest).

A lot of the core of Harry Potter is the central friendships between Harry, Ron and Hermione. There's a real sense of this in the way the players are interacting in Tales from the Loop, but it got me thinking about taking it further. With the relationships having a value that could change and evolve over time. Just look at Year Four - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Ron and Harry have a real falling out at the beginning of the story, when Ron's convinced that Harry has put his name in the Goblet of Fire. They don't speak to each other, even using Hermione as a go-between (much to her disgust, rightfully so). While this is resolved, it's great to have a mechanic that represents the relationships of the characters.

With a few tweaks, Tales from the Loop would be a great system for Harry Potter.

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Bearing that in mind, thinking about the way friendships work in roleplaying games, I was pleasantly surprised by the mobile game - Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery - that launched last week. It's received a lot of criticism for its energy management (encouraging that impatience to complete tasks and lessons to urge you to spend real money to help speed things up). However, the friendship mechanics have been a real eye opener.

My character (on the right), looking like a young me (when I had hair and no glasses), in Charms Class
in Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery


In Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, you play a character of your own creation attending Hogwarts in the 80's, before Harry is old enough to attend but after Voldemort has "vanished". You have a past of your own (a brother who was expelled for trying to access the Cursed Vaults under Hogwarts) and you make friends, encounter bullies, go to classes and everything you expect from attending Hogwarts.

However, time is taken to make friends at the school, whether this is over a game of Gobstones or chatting over food in the great hall. Talking to friends is handled in a similar way to classes, and you can answer in positive and negative ways to increase your "relationship" with some of the students.

It's not the complete, branching relationships we've come to enjoy in the Telltale Games like The Walking Dead or Batman, where our decisions really shape the outcome. I don't think in Hogwarts Mystery you can tell Ben to go home when he's worried about being at Hogwarts and him actually leave. Seems a bit mean, but I'm not your archetypal Slytherin.

Merula gives us Slytherins a bad name....

The friendships being such a part of the game was a really nice surprise, and along with Tales from the Loop has reaffirmed by belief that it should be an integral part of a tabletop Harry Potter experience.

I know it's probably impossible, and will never happen...

However, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery is certainly a step in the right direction. After all, it uses established characters - not only professors like Snape, Dumbledore and McGonagall, but also young incarnations of Tonks and Bill Weasley! Something I didn't think any game would do short of adaptations of the books/movies.

The interesting thing is the timeline that recently appeared on Pottermore:


It seems to imply that Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery is set on an alternate timeline? Almost like the Kelvin-verse of the Wizarding World. Or maybe I'm reading too much into this? If it is, what's the problem with allowing tabletop gamers to play in an alternate timeline after the Battle of Hogwarts, but before the events of The Cursed Child?

One day... One day my dream of writing an official Harry Potter tabletop game will come true...

You can read my lengthy treatise on Harry Potter roleplaying on this blog here.

Until next time, keep dreaming.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Done, Done, Onto the Next One!

I've been a bit quiet on here recently - sorry! Been busy. I had a writing project come in - not a huge one, but it was a major one for me - and I was already a month or two late in delivering what was promised.

Why was it a major one? Well, that's two-fold.

In a strange way this is almost the anniversary of my stepping back from the Line Developer role working on Modiphius' Star Trek Adventures. A dream job, working on a license I love. I didn't want to withdraw my involvement, but circumstances meant that if I didn't I would have made myself seriously sick - certainly mentally, if not physically. I was doing too much and I just wasn't handling it as well as I should.

Backing out was hard, but necessary. Afterwards I kept questioning myself, asking if I'd done the right thing? And then came the desert that was writing work. It just wasn't there - I started to worry if word of my failure had spread, and now no one would hire me to work on their games. I'd shot myself in the foot, no one would touch me. Gone were my chances of ever helming another game, let alone my dreams of writing Harry Potter...

The other major thing about this writing job was that 60-70% of the gig was an adventure.

Back when I started trying to get into RPG writing, back in the late 1980s, the only thing I thought companies wanted was adventures. I wrote a couple of adventures for WEG's Ghostbusters RPG, which got some pretty positive responses - though they never saw print. Just wasn't suitable (I foolishly steered a little close to other movie copyrights). I started work on another Ghostbusters adventure, and a Price of Freedom one, but then life got in the way - I went to work in cartography and archaeology, and the worlds of gaming faded to the background for a while.

When I tried to get back into game writing again, it was with Eden Studios. The first thing I wrote for them was a sample supplement for All Flesh Must Be Eaten called "Summercamp Stalkers and Unstoppable Evil" - there was a sort-of adventure at the back of the book. More a setting for teens to run around and avoid a horrible undead nemesis. Not really a proper plotted adventure with a story, as such.

From there, everything I did either had adventures written by other people or didn't need adventures. Even for Doctor Who I got a handful of more qualified adventure writers on board to come up with that section, and I'm glad I did. I've always been a bit crap at coming up with adventure ideas.

This reluctance to write adventures (because I'm convinced I'm crap) even lead to my turning down one of the most high-profile adventure writing gigs around - Wil Wheaton's Titansgrave. I know... what a dumbass.

So I was cautious when it came to the new gig. I hadn't written for a while, and the last plotted and storied adventure I'd worked on was around 1989... But, the subject was fun, and I couldn't turn it down.

And I'm glad I worked on it. I just sent off the completed thing this evening. Now it's onto edits, revisions, layout and illustrations. I'm sure I'll mention it a lot in the following months, especially when the Kickstarter begins.

I hope the company likes it, and I hope you like it when you see it. I had a blast writing it, and it's reassured me that I can not only have a go at adventures again in the future, but also that I can actually finish something. That was a big part - actually finishing something. With WILD taking so many years and failing to get anywhere I was starting to think I was incapable of doing anything anymore.

Anyway, I can't say what this project was, I'm sure it'll be announced soon. But, thanks to it, I'm back on the horse.

Monday, January 1, 2018

I think we must expect great things from you... 2018


...as long as they're not terrible.

I started writing a lengthy "end of year" blog post, filled with the usual "I didn't get this done" and "this is what has happened" nonsense. I even started thinking about my films, games and TV of the year. And you know what? It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter what I thought of the year, what movie I thought was good, or any of it.

What matters is what YOU thought of the year.

More importantly, what matters is what you make of the new year.

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Reflecting on 2017, I just wanted to thank some people.

Thanks to Chris Birch and Sam Webb at Modiphius, for letting me play in the Star Trek universe for a bit. For giving me the opportunity to work with cool Trek people like Dayton Ward and Scott Pearson, and for letting me shape the game a little. Many, many congratulations to them for how the game turned out and for the critical response to it.

Thanks to Dominic McDowall and Jon Hodgson at Cubicle 7 for putting up with my stupid emails.

Thanks to Anthony Boyd for his hard work and dedication running 2017's #RPGaDAY, making it the most far-reaching and successful campaigns spreading the positive message of RPGs to the world.

Thanks to Eric Campbell at Geek & Sundry for hosting some of the coolest actual plays around online featuring the aforementioned Star Trek Adventures and, before it, the game I designed for C7 - Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space (or Doctor Who Roleplaying Game as it is now). The exposure of the Twitch streams have sent the popularity of both of these games into the stratosphere.

Thanks to all my friends and family who have put up with my constant crap all year, and especially thank you to my lovely wife, Debs. Together, we're going to grab 2018 by the proverbials and show the world what we can do.

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2018 is a big year for me. I just hope I can make it even bigger by doing something really special.

Take care of each other, roll well, stay multi-classy and as Neil Gaiman said - "make good art."