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Archive => Indie Game Design => Topic started by: Eric Goold on July 28, 2004, 11:22:47 AM

Title: Primal Insanity - My new rpg!
Post by: Eric Goold on July 28, 2004, 11:22:47 AM

I'm new here. But amidst studying for my qualifier examination this summer, I took a bit of time to type up some refinements to a game that I came up with when a few friends and I were trying to think of something quick and entertaining between D&D gaming.

It is very short and only a basic sketch of the rules (but that is all that is needed). It is primarily meant for game masters who are good story tellers (or want to become so) and do not wish ridiculous volumes of rules to stifle the spontaneity of gameplay.

In the game's simplicity, the characters are reduced down to a single number as far as the rules are concerned. Everything that is not covered by this single number, is the responsibility of the game master to resolve as deemed appropriate. Actually, to be strictly honest, there is more than a single number (but still not much). A character's sheet aught to have the character's number, and a list of the primal powers the character has learned, as well as any restrictors, tools, and pets the character has in their possession (each of which is at most two more numbers). Anyhow, check out the rules, they are only eight pages!

This is an alpha release only meant for experienced and interested game masters to play test. My goal is to clean up the eight pages of rules and add some more examples (but I'll keep it under 15 pages).  And I would like to finish the first adventure for it: PI110: The Induction. I'll be sure to post another message when I get this finished. So, if you like, wait for the next post.

Look at

As always, any feedback will be appreciated or filed away in a lost hole somewhere.

As always, game onward!
Eric Goold

Title: Primal Insanity - My new rpg!
Post by: Mike Holmes on July 28, 2004, 12:44:33 PM
Hi Eric, and welcome to the wild and wooly realm that is The Forge.

What sort of feedback are you looking for? If it's about the design of this game, which as an alpha is still in development, then I'm betting that the moderators will soon move this to Indie Design.

Or do you have some bit of theory that you want to discuss with respect to the game in question?

In general, you'll find here that if you come with specific questions that you'll get a lot more response.


Title: Andreas here
Post by: The Walruss on July 28, 2004, 02:31:35 PM
I really like the backstory you thought of.

One thing you left out, though, is that if you have a power of a prime, the power attached to it is more powerful. For example, "Jack, a number 49, is under heavy attack by a swarm of Negatives. Thinking quickly, he double-jumps to the moon to get some distance between him and his pursuers, calling on a couple of his friends for assistance. "

Title: How did I get here? (Didn't I take the Indie Design exit?)
Post by: Eric Goold on July 28, 2004, 08:21:40 PM

Thanks for the Welcome! Argh, it looks like I made a mistake when I posted this here. It was my intent for it to land over in Indie Design. Oops! :|

Right now, I know what direction I am taking it in the next few months, so the box of theory questions is empty. I just wanted to introduce some of the stuff and see who likes it while keeping one eye on the comments.

Title: Heya Andreas!
Post by: Eric Goold on July 28, 2004, 08:28:20 PM
The Walruss,

Well, numbers like 49 are not prime, but composites. So, in order to take advantage of the double 7, the character will have to learn a composite power, which was beyond the scope of the PI101. However, I may put in a paragraph of two explaining how it is to be handled.

Composite powers get into the subtle field of intermingling the primal natures. It turns out that for a given composite, like 49, more than one composite power actually exists, depending upon how the power of the 7 is doubled. Also, there exist powers known as the subtle powers, which are alternatives to the prime powers. For instance, the primal power of 7 is jump, but there are also subtle powers for 7 which are more rare to find. Because of their rarety, I decided not to put them into PI101.

Title: Primal Insanity - My new rpg!
Post by: Mike Holmes on July 29, 2004, 06:06:19 AM
Don't worry, then, Eric, it'll be moved soon to where it should be, I'll bet.

Anyhow, again, the Forge isn't really much of a place for popularity contests. Posts are supposed to be for discussion, not for getting people's general opinions of things. So, again, is there something about the game that you think needs discussion?


Title: aha!
Post by: The Walruss on July 29, 2004, 10:03:33 AM
Composite powers, subtle powers, etc...
I'm looking forward to PI201!

To keep things simple, however, it might be good to have a 'barebones' or 'hardcore' rulebook that does away with tools and pets and things, in addition to the full game.

Also, it may be a good idea that an activated agent HAS to do some primal power. If he wants to do nothing, he'll just deactivate, of course, but if deactivating is a bad option, he'll have to do something else.
I don't remember if we played with that rule during the alpha-testing two years ago, but I think so.

Title: Do you think PI101 should be the bare bones?
Post by: Eric Goold on July 29, 2004, 05:48:58 PM
OK Walrus,

Do you think PI101 should be the bare bones rule book? It would make it MUCH more simpler to start than it all ready is now. Then I could put devices along with composite and subtle powers into PI201. It would make my own job a lot easier.

If you haven't noticed yet, this will be my naming scheme for documents. PI101 is the basic rules. PI10# will be other accessories based on PI101 for the master to use in campaigns. This would allow 8 more additional documents for aiding the master (like tables of random stuff!! :D). Finally, PI1##, will be all the adventures corresponding to the PI101 basic rules. The higher numbers will correspond to more difficult adventures.

Now PI201 will be lay down advanced rules. And then PI20# will be accessories based on PI201. And PI2## will be the adventures for the PI201 rules.

And then comes PI301, PI401, PI501... A life time of work. (It could get very strange and nasty with sets and functions, etc.)

Oh yeah, the necessity of using a primal power was my intent. No idling while activated or else automatic de-activation occurs. I am rewording the sentence to make it more clear. (I said a lot in one sentence.) Two years ago? Wow, time went by fast. I'm glad I finally got to it again. In September the gaming group here will start meeting once a week. I want to get my material done so I can start something going.

Well, now I'm sleepy, and I haven't revised PI101 yet... :(

The more I think about it, PI101 should stick to the basics. Thanks for the hint! The creation of devices may become a Composite or Subtle Power then.

Quite normal,

Title: We be moved!
Post by: Eric Goold on July 29, 2004, 05:58:04 PM
Hi Mike,

Yep, we moved! (Thanks Ron!)

Yeah, this place feels more comfortable. I feel like a little girl again. :)

Discussion questions? Here is something I was wondering about... For a diddly little RPG like this, how long do you think I should make the adventures (in terms of play-time)? My vision is for the adventures to require VERY little preparation for the Master, but how long should an adventure last. I would hope a party could finish it up in one session. Does between an hour and two sound good?

p.s. Is that a good question?

Title: Primal Insanity - My new rpg!
Post by: Mike Holmes on July 30, 2004, 06:41:06 AM
I think that's a good question. For a number of reasons. First, are you talking about a sample adventure in the book? Or published adventures? Or advice for GMs on how to prep adventures themselves? For instance, are you saying that you want to have lots of published adventures for the GM so that he has less prep time, or that you want the adventures that you publish to require less prep time than others might? If you could clarify that, it would help.

And as to the time, is this what you're suggesting overall play length of adventures should be? If so, it's not easy to get a game to the point where it can be played in that short a timeframe, but it's been done. In fact, the game SOAP has a time limit of one hour on play. This has a lot of advantages in terms of making the game something that can be played without a huge investment from all of the players. So, I think if that's what you're talking about, that it's a good goal to have.


Title: Primal Insanity - My new rpg!
Post by: Paul Czege on July 30, 2004, 12:33:08 PM
Hey Eric,

I like it a lot. It's very elegant in a machined tool sort of way, system-wise like a really nice set of kitchen knives. Kudos to you on that. Questions, comments, recommendations, in no particular order:[list=1]
  • It's interesting that groups ("a classroom of 25 students") have less primal quanta collectively than they do individually. The whole is less than the sum of the parts. Did you implement this strictly for purposes of mechanical balance, or do you have a setting-based rationale?
  • I'm going to disagree with Walruss. The Naturals vs. Negation thing bores the fuck out of me. The combat/conflict mechanics are cool as shit, but the rationale is good vs. evil? An "organization" with unspecified "twisted purposes"? I get that the inspiration is natural numbers and negative numbers. And in all other ways I think the design has been well served by your mathematical source material and cerebral focus. But here I think you need to deliver a meaningful conflict that grabs the interest of your potential players. I think you need to put some human issues on the table that players will relate to on an emotional level. And in my mind, the game is crying out for either the good guys or the bad guys to be some kind of cursed or dying race. I'm not saying you need to write an elaborate history or timeline or something. I just think you need a couple of thousand words of setting/situation that injects the conflict with excitement for potential players.
  • The combat/conflict mechanics are such a kick in the mouth! I really like how it only takes ten minutes to convert a normal human to an agent. It brings that activity into the combat arena. So many games deny the player the ability to do anything that meaningfully alters the combat landscape, so it's pretty damn refreshing to see it. And the primal powers themselves are so brash and surreal. (I love "Divide in Two.") I get the impression that you've playtested them. Is that the case? I suspect that they combine and stack in play in surprising ways, as players respond creatively to the changing conflict landscape, and if so I consider it quite a design achievement. With point-based character construction games, powers are architected prior to play. A game that delivers powers that are more interesting tactically than they are strategically is a real rarity. If you have playtested as I suspect, I'd love to read an example of play.
  • Suspend Time really only freezes time for "the target"? I have to think it's more of a suspended animation than a time supension then.
  • Can a player using Summon Primal choose to summon a specific player agent? Or does the summoning produce an unknown agent entirely at random?
  • Regarding Communication, when you describe it in the Catalog of Powers you write "can communicate with any destroyed agent regardless of location." Can agents communicate with other agents who aren't destroyed, or only with destroyed agents? The text on communcation in the earlier Trivial Powers section didn't have the same language restricting it to destroyed agents. It just says that when an agent is destroyed, communication is the only thing left that they can do.
  • Document-wise, your line length is too long, and the Papyrus font is not a good choice for body text. Check out Q: Do you know why your PDF/printed game is hard to read? for a good discussion.
  • No chargen rules at all? How is a character's starting number determined? The powers he's learned? The restrictors, tools, pets he can start with?
  • You write, "...if an agent picks up the device with a lower number than the device, the device may destroy him if there is not a sufficient charge in the battery." Does this apply only to an activated agent?
  • You write, regarding newly created pets, their "number becomes the highest prime factor of their previous number." So a normal human made into a pet starts with a number of 5?
  • I quite like how the agents get trapped in their bodies when they're destroyed. It's creepy and cool.[/list:o]Paul

Title: playing time of adventures
Post by: Eric Goold on July 31, 2004, 11:47:46 AM
Heya Mike,

I guess I must expound on my reasons for developing Primal Insanity. First off, it was motivated by the need for some quick and easy game-play, between deeper campaigns in other systems. (Sometimes, the dungeon master needs more time to prepare between play sessions.)

Secondly, I'm a busy guy right now, but yet I still wanted to work out some ideas I had. So I am putting together Primal Insanity as something fun and easy for me to do. Hence my reason for wanting the rule-book to be between 10 and 15 pages. There will be no sample adventure, but the first adventure PI110: The Induction is short, as will all those that follow. (It will probably happen that longer campaigns take the form of subsequent short adventures.)

(Actually, I need to include some type of disclaimer that states I am not responsible for the state of sanity of anyone playing the game, and also, more importantly, that people are allowed to make copies only for personal use, and not for distribution.)

I think I would like the play time for each adventure to be between one and two hours (like a typical movie). I hope that a master may be able to prepare a game in 10 or 20 minutes and even create one on the fly if he has enough experience gaming. The primal aspects of characters, is simple, just a number and a list of powers. The part that requires imagination is the "form" the agents will take. This is why making adventures would necessitate being a good story teller, as the game establishes no rules for normal activity. However, running a pre-made adventure should be pretty straight forward. Although a good imagination is, of course, of great benefit.

Title: Thanks for the feedback!
Post by: Eric Goold on July 31, 2004, 12:39:35 PM

Thanks for the support! I will try to answer all your responses, taking one at a time...

1. The group number is representative of the life inherent within the activity of the group. If you destroy a group by primal means, the people still survive without loss of primal quanta, but the life of the group is gone. Whatever collective organization was present is now gone.

2. The Naturals versus the Negation conflict is at the very center of the awareness of the primal nature. Primal activity is a way of interacting directly with the existence of the universe. This was developed by an alien race who had some disagreement regarding ethics and philosophy. Thus, the Naturals and the Negation exist now. It's too bad that this is the context of the earth's exposure to such powers. For the characters, it is like this. They become primal agents and find themselves in a war. I should maybe say that the normal humans on earth are getting a bit worried and concerned, as the number of strange and supernatural events are increasing around the world, and some with substantial evidence behind them. Think of it as a horror movie that the characters get caught into. The actual story of this conflict is unknown by the players, but revealed in their adventures. Does that sound better? Wait until I finish up the the first adventure, and I think you'll get more of a sense of the intended atmosphere.

3. Some ad-hoc play-testing was done a few years ago. It took me this long to dig it up and get something together... I'll put a sample scenario of play in the next version of PI101. I don't think we have ever had the opportunity of experiencing what it is like for a player character to be divided into two.

4. Yeah, time is suspended for the target only. I didn't give much thought to the words describing it. (Being of some physics background, I assume the relativity of time...) Suspended animation describes it adequately enough.

5. The summoning produces an agent at random (but not exceeding the character's number). If the power goes wrong it may summon an agent of the opposite polarity.

6. Communication can only take place between destroyed agents and activated agents. It used to be otherwise, but I changed this, when I introduced the Negation, because in such a situation where agents can freely communicate the players would not have a chance.

7. Thanks for the suggestion. It really depends upon the resolution of the  monitor I think. Anyhow, I will consider these matters on the next version.

8. A player begins as a normal human being. He is then contacted and made into a primal agent. Typically, the number should be at around 10, but if the player was attacked before the conversion, it may be lower. I am consider changing Strike and Drain around, so that players may easily use a turn Draining primal quanta from a being close by to "recharge". Drain would be at 3 and Strike at 5. Players must learn skills from other agents, and acquire pets through adventures.

9. Yes, you are correct. The agent may be destroyed when he first activates with the device. Or, if the agent is using Mobility while activated the effect will take place immediately when the restrictor is picked up.

10. A typical human has a number of 10. Actually, the number may be anything, depending upon the condition of the human. A very sick human may have a number of 6 and thus become a pet of 3.

11. Yeah, when the body is destroyed by natural means the agents are trapped within. But when the agent is destroyed by primal means, the body is also destroyed but the agent is "free". Yep, its a fun type of creepiness. :)

I'm redoing PI101 to keep it simpler (no tools) and putting the pieces of PI110 together. I hope to have them posted before Monday. Take a look at it when you get the chance.

Title: Primal Insanity - My new rpg!
Post by: Mike Holmes on August 02, 2004, 06:46:03 AM
The time goals seem good to me, and I think you have the vision here to pull it off. Have you playtested PI110 much? Does the system permit the timeframe that you're looking at?


Title: New Version
Post by: Eric Goold on August 03, 2004, 06:25:01 AM
The latest version 0.0.2 of PI101 is on my site. Here are some of the changes:

1. Devices are left out to be introduced later in PI201.

2. Primal bursting (remember DigDug?) is introduced to cap off the range of numbers at 100 for this rule system (PI201 will extend this higher). This gives good closure to the PI101 system by itself.

3. Primal leeches are introduced as an aftertaste of primal bursting. :)

4. The powers drain and detect are interchanged, allowing the drain power to be used effectively for recharging during idle rounds.

5. Background story elucidated just a little bit more.

6. The "make device" power has been replaced by the "bind" power.

7. Oh yeah, reformating has been implemented to make it EASIER on your eyes! (Thanks for the hint Paul!) I'm sticking with Papyrus font. The font looks good on Word, although Acrobat messes with it on low resolution monitors. The print out looks good though!

Things to change before final release:

1. More examples need to be included.

2. A sample combat session needs be included.

3. I forgot to list all the people who contributed to it!

4. Any minor repairs to flaws found during playtesting.

Take a look:

Unfortunately, PI110 is still in the works. I will post when it is finished.