Thursday, January 18, 2024

What Else Have I Got in Me?

Brechewold's been done for a little while. Still incredibly pumped to have this labor of love out in the company of LotFP's marvelously creative body of work.

I'm definitely taking a breather from big projects. But I don't intend for this to be my only publication. What else has been rattling around in my brain?

Low-Hanging Fruit

Prison Island NY-1

This is my mashup of Escape from New York, The Warriors, Ninja Turtles, and all the trashy dystopian NY-centric fiction of my youth. I originally intended it to be set in a US conquered by Imperial Japan during World War II. I meant the prison island as a fuck you to the US Japanese concentration camps during the war, but the longer I sit with it the more I think that it probably won't be taken that way. And you know what? The US doesn't need any help from an Axis power to be shitty and fascist. So I'll probably rework the backstory.

Much of the material for this is done. I'd like to use it as an exercise to learn how to properly lay out a book myself. Right now it uses modified Into the Odd rules. I'm currently looking into whether it might benefit from using the Cy_Borg rules instead.

Kapuluan Kup

A short adventure detailing an aeronautical race through a tropical archipelago in the midst of civil war. Intended as an homage to Hayao Miyazaki and his love of vroom vroom planes. This will probably use its own rule set (modified Into the Odd unless I decide otherwise) and I'll likely just put it out myself. The main holdup right now is figuring out how to handle the mechanics of a long distance race.

Friday Night Frights

An anthology of simple setups for horror movie style one-shots, one per page spread. I love running these, like this one here.

Middle-Distance Fruit

Hamlet 2

I mean, the idea writes itself, doesn't it?

Brechewold sequel, tentatively "The Red Ledger of Brechewold"

I want to write a rare kind of adventure - one designed specifically for domain-level play. It would pick up after graduation and use the characters' student debt to draw them into working for the interdimensional entity that "underwrites" Brechewold's magical energy. Definitely more ambitious than the first book, and it would require domain management rules. I've never been incredibly happy with any that I've read before, so as daunting as it feels, I would likely write my own.

Pie in the Sky

Brechewold double-sequel, tentatively "The Green Mirror of Brechewold"

This would complete the trilogy of adventures and move play into the "intended" endgame of 80s Basic D&D - Immortal-level epic dimension-hopping shenanigans. Besides the name and the vague intention, though, I don't have anything for it yet.

We Are Not Alone

I wrote this board game during the pandemic about national competition during an alien invasion. The rules are complete and alpha-tested, but I don't know a thing about game balance or how to take this idea over the finish line.

Eldritch Grasp

This is a sort of proof-of-concept "two-level" board game, with some players as heavy metal wizards vying for power and other players as warriors working for the wizards. Alpha rules are done, but only a few of the multitude of player characters, monsters, equipment, and spells that this would require are written. Again, no idea how to get a board game made.

Lord of Heaven

This beast of an idea is set in a galaxy-wide space fantasy war. There would be two levels to it: a grand strategy board game in the vein of Diplomacy linked to a tabletop miniatures skirmish game that could help decide the outcome of the board game. No rules written, only vibes. 

Thursday, January 11, 2024

How a Brechewold Campaign Works

I have been delinquent in letting you know that Brechewold has been available from the LotFP US web store for some time. If you’ve been waiting to save on shipping, now’s the time. If you live outside the US and want a physical copy, go here, and if you want a PDF, go here.

I was never that interested in writing a book about sitting in class. I suppose I could have cracked the code to making fantasy school interesting, but I think most high school fiction agrees with me here. I’m sure there are ways to do it, but here’s the thing: school is kind of a railroad. If the focus of the game were the classroom, then everything would already be predetermined. There are far more student-directed educational models, of course, but I didn't want to convey that kind of vibe with Brechewold. Quite the opposite, in fact.

It would also necessitate entirely different mechanics, and I wanted to make a dungeon game. I could certainly imagine a guided-dungeon-as-lesson type thing, but for some reason that rubs me the wrong way. "Today's quiz is the flying axe puzzle room, students." I think the guided nature would run counter to the sense of discovery, my favorite part of D&D.

No, I'm far more interested in the "we're not supposed to be here" feeling. So here's the engine of the campaign I did write: PCs select courses at the beginning of the term, but their main function is to impart secrets that will hopefully entice players to investigate further. I like to think of the course catalogue as an a la carte rumor menu that should align with player interests since they picked the courses themselves. Each term will have one major investigation, so there's a ticking clock in the background: after four years (eight terms), the PCs graduate.

The courses also act as a way for PCs to begin building relationships with the professors. There's a web of intrigue going on behind the scenes, and in my experience players tend to side with the professors whose courses they've most selected. You'd be surprised how much loyalty picking an imaginary course from a list can create.

For a long time in my playtesting, I was using milestone experience. I don't think I'll ever use it again. It seemed like the obvious choice: at the end of the term, PCs pass their classes and level up. Graduating is about the closest real-life analog to leveling up most people experience. But it provided no incentive to explore and take risks. Even worse, it seemed to rob my players of forward momentum - they asked me several times, "So, what are we supposed to do next?"

So I went back to the old standby, XP for GP. It might not be the flashiest or most innovative reward system, and yes, it prioritizes greedy accumulation, but boy does it just work. I tried to put a little twist on it - PCs only earn XP for treasure they use to decorate their common room, hopefully evoking a feeling of a frat house full of junk that all tell stories of past glory.

This will be my last navel-gazing Brechewold post for now. Up next: what does the future hold?