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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Badass Kung-Fu Demigods: Development Journal pt 2

Euugh, last week and a half I've spent battling a nasty cold. Finally starting to fade so I'll try and resume my lost momentum.

Back to Badass Kung-Fu Demigods.

Part 2: The Basics

Part of the reason I think this game has come together so quickly is that most of the basic concepts come directly from my Id. I started with just the basic concept of "player-controlled scaling power level, ramping up to the ridiculous." and after that I basically just decided to make every decision based purely on things I enjoyed from other games. Not necessarily the best or most coherent decision...just the one that I personally enjoyed. And as a result everything came together beautifully.

For comparison, Battle Royale was created mostly because I saw it as a good way to fill a niche that might appeal to people. I wanted a PDQ game, but I also kind of wanted to make a good first impression with what I planned on being my first "professional" game effort. I saw martial arts as a niche that wasn't being too thoroughly filled and I felt fit well with the PDQ system. I wasn't even a massive fan of martial arts media at the time (although in the process of making Battle Royale I have since become one). And while I still think that the final result is a good job it took a hell of a long time to get there as I didn't really have a clear vision when I started things.

So, back to BAKFDG. What kind of decisions am I talking about. Well, here are the basics:

  • First and foremost I wanted to use all of my dice. As a person who started with D&D and has since become a big fan of Savage Worlds I have a rather large collection of polyhedrals. While there are definitely mono-dice game I enjoy (such as PDQ and FATE), I always feel a little bad about all those other colorful dice sitting unused in my dice box. So I decided that I definitely wanted multi-dice and since I quite liked Savage World's dice-based abilities I decided to use that concept as a basis for my game. 
  • Second, I wanted exploding dice. My first experience with exploding dice came from the Storyteller system, but it was Savage Worlds that really made me fall in love with them. I just plain like them. My wife really likes them too and whenever we play a system where the dice don't explode she expresses disappointment that she doesn't get to roll again. I don't want to disappoint my wife, so exploding dice were definitely in. 
  • Thirdly, I like the DIY philosophy of PDQ, FATE and Unknown Armies where abilities are created by players for players and not restricted to a set list of specific, often bland, traits. So throw those in on top. 
  • Fourth, I wanted to be able to play Exalted with it. I don't talk about Exalted too much here (other than showing off my clunky-ass PDQ conversion), but it is kind of my gaming white whale. I was a big fan of the first edition but, like many many others, I got frustrated with the limitations of the system. 2nd edition compounded the problem with an even more insane combat system and a few questionable setting decisions. The third edition seems to have doubled down on "complex combat system" and the setting has (for me) gone off the rails by doubling the number of different Exalted "flavors". So, while I've always wanted to play Exalted I've never found a system that met the right level of "crunch vs fun" while still scratching a very specific itch Exalted has left me with. So a very big goal with BAKFDG is to create my own personal Exalted "emulator". 
Those goals already provided me with the very bare-bones of a system and it turned out that in the process of adding a bit of meat on I realized that the system was (with a few tweaks) surprisingly workable and a lot of fun.

I didn't feel like the whole thing needed much of a "native" setting (especially since I was probably going to be using it personally mainly for playing existing settings like Exalted and Scion), so I just decided to fiddle with the system until I got something that worked out for me.

That's all for now (still recovering from the cold) but next time I'll talk a bit more about the system itself. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Badass Kung-Fu Demigods: Development Journal pt 1

So, last week I mentioned what I've been doing as far as new conversion material, but quite a lot of my free time has actually been spent on games of my own. The one I want to talk about first is Badass Kung-Fu Demigods.

The name alone should give you some idea of the sort of game you're dealing with.

BAKFDG is an original system, the latest of several I've been working on and despite that it has the distinction of being the system closest to feeling complete and ready for action. It's "clicked" in a way very few of my other works have and I've already reached a point where it's almost out of the "rough draft" phase...something Battle Royale hasn't managed despite several years of work.

The fourth draft is available here: Badass Kung-Fu Demigods (v 0.4)

So...if I feel like it's practically finished already, haven't I kind of moved beyond commenting on the game's development? Well, here's the thing...I feel like it's practically done, but that doesn't mean it is. The intent behind this is to more or less break down my own game, chapter by chapter. I'll discuss the ideas behind the mechanics and the ideas and hopefully that'll help me spot any areas in desperate need of sprucing up or help me feel like things are definitely and firmly "good".

Part 1: Origins

Just to start with, I'll go over how this game got started. It all began with my long-time project, Battle Royale. A game that, while I'm still quite enthusiastic about it, certainly has not solidified with anything like the quickness or surety of BAKFDG. I've gone over and over the system for Battle Royale, tinkering and rejiggering to see what feels right.

In this case, I was thinking of creating a playtesting "setting". But if you remember any of the Battle Royale material I've discussed before, the game is designed to provide multiple different power levels for different types of games. I started originally making different playtesting scenarios for different settings with different power levels...but I was having enough trouble getting together a playtesting group for one setting, let alone several to stress test Battle Royale at different power levels.

So I hit upon the idea of having a single setting with characters who were capable of adjusting their own Power Levels up and down from the lowest rank to the highest, allowing for the possibility of testing the rules for different power levels all in one game!

The setting was called "Kung-Fu Demigods" and owed a bit to Exalted and the Korean Manhwas Veritas and Breaker The premise being that in the ancient world existed secret martial arts societies run by 13 near godlike Great Masters who were capable of the highest levels of martial arts ability and whose power would carry from one life to the next through reincarnation. These 13 Great Masters dealt with spirits, maintained the balance of the world and fought one another in epic martial arts throw-downs.

Five of the Great Masters formed an alliance and through various means developed the means to create semi-mystical drugs that could elevate the chi of their students. Backed with a small army of lesser (but still amazing) martial artists these five Masters defeated the other 8 and then dominated the rest of the world, shaping society as they saw fit.

Fast forward to the modern age, the world is ultimately dominated by the Unified Martial Arts Society, still led by those 5 Great Masters. Artificial chi-boosting drugs are mass produced and used to elevate those with talent, called The Gifted, above ordinary human beings.

Of course, the players would be reincarnations of the former 8 Great Masters, with the potential for near-unlimited martial arts power...but the five Great Masters have centuries of skill and massive support in the form of the Martial Arts Society they created.

The players would have the ability to push their way, at will, from the lower power levels to the higher power level, immediately gaining the benefits of the new level of ability...with the downside being that doing so attracts the attention of someone of the same Power Level. So while you could Power Up to Cosmic power level and kick a mugger into orbit that'll alert the remaining Great Masters that something is up.

For whatever reason, this concept really caught me. Most games, even the high-powered ones like Scion or Exalted, work on the premise that (powerful or not) you start at the low end of your respective power-scale and gradually work your way up. Why not, I thought, have a game where absolutely ridiculous levels of power are available from the very start...sure, there's always room for lateral growth or new tricks...but why not throw the players raw power and set them loose in a world where their choices have truly massive consequences.

And that thought is where the seed of Badass Kung-Fu Demigods began.