Mundus Novit: Dark Horizons – Station

Continued from Thirty-two: En Route

Thirty-three: Station

Mads holstered his SIG. He couldn’t believe the action had ended. Everything had passed in a blur, like fast-forwarding through a DVD. Heather leaned against the SUV blocker she had driven, breathing hard, C8 carbine held loose. Mads slid over the hood of the wrecked sedan, mimicking Boyle’s slick move a moment earlier.

Then the Bedouin’s voice came over the comm. “Incoming trouble. Contact imminent.”

“Bundle up the package.” Boyle handed Mads a pair of flex-cuffs. “It seems this is all far from over.”


You Already Know

You noticed right? I mean, someone out there actually cares, right? Chapter/episode/part 33 of Dark Horizons is coming at you soon. The problem? It doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t sound right. I finished it (2100 words of it) and then realized: this is the climax. This is it.

And it fell flat for me.

This is going to be a problem. I’m re-working it now, trying to get it going in media res while still linking it to the previous chapter. I really don’t know if I’m ever going to get it to feel tense enough, to get it climactic, which is what it needs to be.

So hang in there. It’s coming. I hope it will meet the expectations of the couple of hundred loyal readers that are showing up here (and possibly more whom Google Analytics does not count chewing through this on RSS. . . yes, I am optimistic).

I’ve also lost a lot of enthusiasm for Mundus Novit as a project because it has been out a couple of weeks and the publisher hasn’t bothered to do any marketing or promotion. Nothing. Not even posts on messageboards. Given that lack of support, it seem clear to me that Mundus Novit is going to sink into obscurity. I guess it is good it took so long to get released. If this had happened half-way through Dark Horizons, I can’t imagine bothering to finish the story.

But I will. Honest, I will.

Sword Noir: Resolutions and Advancements

In which I continue to answer questions from the Power 19.

It’s interesting the aspects of game design that did not inform my design choices so far, and also those that I am not interested in considering. My game experience and interest remains—it seems—firmly traditional, with some sprinklings of novel ideas.

10.) What are the resolution mechanics of your game like?

I’m afraid it’s traditional and uninspired. Roll 2d10, add modifiers, hit the target number or better to succeed. Pretty basic stuff.

The thing that is different than True20 or Savage Worlds is that the modifiers are based on the character’s qualities. Qualities are ranked descriptors, like Good Pickpocket or Great Death to the Four Corners Gang! If the player can explain how the quality applies to the situation, the player can use that modifier.

11.) How do the resolution mechanics reinforce what your game is about?

I honestly don’t know if it does. This is where I am firmly in the traditional game headspace. I’m not sure how a resolution mechanic could reinforce the core concept of Sword Noir. I’m sure there are those out there who could. I’m not one of them.

12.) Do characters in your game advance? If so, how?

Players design “Pivots” for their characters, which are goals or other character quirks that helps to define the character. When the character completes a Pivot, the character gains an Advancement.

13.) How does the character advancement (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?

As with 11, I don’t know if it does. Given that the Pivot need not relate to the core concept of Sword Noir, but rather illustrates something about the character, I tend to think it does not. Perhaps this is not desirable in some schools of thought, but the concept—which was inspired by the mechanics of the Shadow of Yesterday—just seemed cool to me.

Mundus Novit: Dark Horizons – En Route

Continued from Thirty-one: Cascade Effect

Thirty-two: En Route

Heather gripped the wheel of the SUV. Hastily acquired by Gurung and his network of contacts, it had only minimal upgrading and no armour. She felt vulnerable.

With the engine off, she waited on a small side-street. The target, so far, had revealed relatively good security instincts. He varied his schedules, he varied his routes, and he maintained bodyguards—unobtrusively. He did all the right things. It wouldn’t help him. They knew where he spent much of his day.

And that evening, they would get their target.

Sword Noir RPG: Things I Think About, Stuff I Don’t

It’s surprising how fast one can design the basics for an RPG system once one gets the fire. The game has deviated from intention but not too dramatically. I got some further inspiration, did some thinking about the definition I provided for Sword Noir and how it linked to the mechanics, and tinkered away.

I wanted to answer a few more questions from the “Power 19” and honestly admit to being unable to answer others.

4.) How does your setting (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?

I am uncertain about providing a setting. I think, were this game to go to publication—and I am certainly interested in something along those lines right now—it would need a setting.

Were I to include a setting, it would be a single city, a large city. The city would be run by a bunch of corrupt oligarchs who basically have a “live and let live” deal with the criminal underworld—that is as long as they stay out of certain parts of the city and leave certain people alone. What order is enforced is more about keeping order and control and absolutely not about justice.

This is based on the sword noir definition, specifically: “The atmosphere is dark and hope is frail or completely absent. . . .Grim leaders weave labyrinthine plots which entangle innocents.”

5.) How does the Character Creation of your game reinforce what your game is about?

When I was working on character creation, I originally had an issue with linking it to “The characters are good at what they do, but they are specialists.” This led to the aspect “Concept,” which is a quick, succinct definition of the character. Also, qualities got linked to traits. Taking all this together, there is a meta-gaming consideration to creating a character that matches the Concept and ties many qualities to a select number of traits.

Since qualities, concepts and traits can stack and increase the modifiers a character can gain, this helps to drive players to create specialists characters, or at least focused characters.

6.) What types of behaviors/styles of play does your game reward (and punish if necessary)?

Within the game, Pivots are set up specifically as reward mechanisms that the player as the character has control over. It allows the player to decide what behaviour and style will be rewarded. The player can decide what is important to the character, and then use that.

7.) How are behaviors and styles of play rewarded or punished in your game?

Using the Pivots as a guide, the player is rewarded by Advancements for the character, which can increase existing aspects and qualities, or create new qualities.

8.) How are the responsibilities of narration and credibility divided in your game?

In general, the control of the world and the NPCs is left to the GM, but players have limited narrative control through the use of the fortune point mechanic.

The game is pretty traditional when it comes to narrative control.

9.) What does your game do to command the players’ attention, engagement, and participation? (i.e. What does the game do to make them care?)

This one is a tough one. It’s one I hadn’t really considered. I mean, the idea is that with the character generation, the players will have characters about whom they care. Also, given that the game has a very specific genre, I would hope that those playing would be interested in replicating that kind of genre in game.

I think the main reason why I find this question so jarring is that I haven’t deeply thought about game design in this fashion. Did I mention that already? Things like player attention, engagement and participation, I think of as the GM’s job—among many others. I tend to believe that no matter what the mechanics, no matter what the rules, that if the GM is not arresting, the game cannot command any of those.

Also, in case I didn’t mention it, I haven’t really thought about it.

I’ll answer more of the questions later. They are helpful in getting me to think about the game.

The first draft is pretty much done, and you can have a look here.

Missed That One

My apologies to all of you out there waiting at the edge of your seats for the next Dark Horizons instalment. I have fallen behind yet again. Rest assured, though, that the end is near! Next Thursday will see the next chapter/episode, the first of the last three plotted!

If anyone out there is dying for something to read, let me know, and I’ll send you one of my unpublished stories. Best I can do on short notice.

June Sales Data

A little late, but then June was a slow month and there are a lot of things going on in July. As you can see, SEP is not exactly a hot and going concern. This month, not even enough money to pay for hosting for sites and for the podcast. The next month might make up for it, or it might not.

C’est la vie.

Total Sales for June
Canada’s Combined Security Reconnaissance Section 1
Covert Forces Redux 1

Total Sales to Date

Albenistan: Election Day (Modern Dispatch 113) 19
Khorforjan Gambit 77
Qalashar Device 90
Raid On Ashkashem 128

Covert Forces
Canada’s Combined Security Reconnaissance Section 72
Covert Forces 97
Covert Forces Redux 102
In Her Majesty’s Service 109

Modern Medieval
Gunpowder Plots 73
Man-At-Arms Advanced Class 36
Mercenary Advanced Class 39
Spy Advanced Class 34

Roles & Classes
Capable Hero 84
Combat Hero 83
Counter-Terrorism Assaulter 95
Covert Hero 92
Spec Ops Recce 93
Special Operations Marksman 93
Talent Trees Assembled 68

Treasure Chest Unlocked
Gems 66
Incense 7

Cyber-state Avatar Toolkit 21
Line Zero 28
Relief Effort 45

Sword Noir RPG: First 3 Answers

I had promised to answer at least the first three of the Power 19, and here they are, with some comments following.

1.) What is your game about?
The answer to this question is pretty much the description of sword noir as a genre that I have used elsewhere and will repeat here.

Characters morals are shifting at best and absent at worst. The atmosphere is dark and hope is frail or completely absent. Violence is deadly and fast. The characters are good at what they do, but they are specialists. Trust is the most valued of commodities–life is the cheapest. Grim leaders weave labyrinthine plots which entangle innocents. Magic exists and can be powerful, but it takes extreme dedication to learn, extorts a horrible price, and is slow to conjure.

That’s about as good a definition as I can come up with.

2.) What do the characters do?
The characters are involved in surviving in the rough and ruthless world, generally in an urban setting, but possibly elsewhere. The characters live by their wits, their reputation and their weapons, trying to keep their heads above water. The characters want to prosper without crossing any of the powers, legal and shadowy, who control the locale.

3.) What do the players (including the GM if there is one) do?
The GM prepares the adventure, creating locations and NPCs with whom the characters will react. The GM then adjudicates the game, based on the rules and table consensus on interpretation and additions.

The players take on the role of the characters they create, leading them through the adventure presented by the GM, but impacting on the adventure through both character choice and limited narrative control. The players are involved in building a consensus regarding the interpretation of the rules and any additions or changes to those rules that would increase the players’ and GM’s enjoyment of the game.

And now, my commentary.
As you can see above, Sword Noir is still a pretty traditional game. The system that is being designed right now is rules light, and is by no means ground-breaking. As I’ve said before, I’m not a creative genius, more of a craftsman, and I’m taking elements from games I have seen and incorporating them.

One thing that I believe is important is the involvement of the players not just through their characters, but through active control of the game and the setting. I intend to provide a method for narrative control to be passed to the players in some cases. It is my hope that this will increase buy-in and a sense of ownership.

Or it could totally de-rail the game.

If you are interested in seeing the system as it is being designed, you can do so here.