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Archive => Indie Game Design => Topic started by: Ron Edwards on August 22, 2003, 03:03:11 PM

Title: [Empire of the Dragon Lotus] Game text comments
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 22, 2003, 03:03:11 PM

This is the first of a few little readings-over I've finally made time for. All of them are games that I think are phenomenal starting-out phases in their development, only a few playtesting experiences away from the I'll-buy-it point.

Empire of the Dragon Lotus (, by Sean Hillman of Azure Dragon Games, is an awesome initial phase for a Nifty Oriental Adventure game. Its strongest point is that its setting-material is just detailed enough to be usable and distinctive, without being chock-full of annoying filler. I think it's only a little skip away from being 100% saleable and playable. It would do wonderfully with ornate, courtly, yet somehow barbaric artwork. Sean, check out these artists: A. Bleys Ingram, Veronica V. Jones, and Marcio Fiorito.

Questions and minor points
Titles might better in two levels - (1) a Cover-like descriptor, as in Sorcerer, and (2) a gaudy title. E.g. "Court assassin" and "Preserver of Inviolable Secrets," meaning, the person who kills such that secrets remain that way. Maybe I'd have everyone provide the #2 on their sheet, then verbally clarify the #1 among the group.

Are Enemies, Allies, and Rivals to be defined using the other player-characters only? That's the impression I got. I do like the linking, but perhaps an NPC or two can be factored into a player-character as well.

Regarding initiative, is going first always better? Would it not be better to say, the winner of the initiative may either go first, or force the other (or another) character to go first? This is especially relevant since, per exchange, combatants get their full dice pool both for offense and for defense.

Success is based on 6-10 per d10 ... as far as I can tell, it's a pure 50:50 effect without any impact coming from the d10 in particular. Could not one use 4-6 on a d6? 2 on a d2? 11-20 on a d20? 50-100 on a d100? Heads on a coin? If this is the case, say so.

I really like the "Bowing Out" option.

Major point #1
I think the conflict resolution needs one more granular level of coolness, along the lines of Swashbuckler or The Dying Earth. Rather than introduce some new sort of mechanic, though, I suggest looking at the structural features that are already there and placing consequence-based options into it. For instance (and this is only a suggestion), looking at a particular die roll, one might see partial vs. total defense - and the latter might force the attacker automatically to lose initiative for the next round. Or, to take another tack entirely, the presence of any tied dice whatever within a roll (not between them) might permit a special effect to be brought in.

Let me break it down a little better, actually.

1. Structural features to work with include tied dice within a roll, tied dice between the two rolls, total vs. partial vs. wholly-off defense, and total vs. partial vs. wholly-off offense.

2. Consequence-features to work with include consequences for initiative, consequences for damage (more or less), consequences for the other person's next action options, consequences for the acting person's next action options. To break the "options" concept down a little, they might include a specification of stuff we already knew about (e.g. initiative, damage), or rather might include stuff that otherwise can't be brought into play.

So what I'm saying is pick something from #1 and have it affect something from #2, to provide that granular or option-oriented level to the conflict resolution sequence, so that exchanges don't devolve into rollin' the same-old same-old pools against one another, over and over.

Major point #2
Scenario preparation and application are a big deal for this game. To achieve the Narrativist goals outlined in the beginning of the text, pressure has to be applied on a character's Legacy, especially through the relationships. That's a given. Now, how is that done using the extensive (and in my opinion excellent) background and history of the setting? What does the GM do, and what do the players do? Exactly? I have my own ideas, and I have no doubt that Sean has his. The key is how to get the right ideas, for this game, into prose form in this game's text?

I don't have an easy answer. This issue is terra incognita for RPG texts that promote Narrativist play. All the Sorcerer books as well as Trollbabe represent a tortured struggle on my part to communicate something that is tremendously easy in play for me and for a number of other people, to others who have similar play goals but need some procedural guidance. Dust Devils, Legends of Alyria, Hero Wars/Quest, and My Life with Master all offer solutions of their own based on their authors' notions of what others might stumble over. I look forward to Sean's answer as well, with my only advice being, "It's absolutely necessary," and, "Do your very best."


Title: [Empire of the Dragon Lotus] Game text comments
Post by: ADGBoss on August 23, 2003, 06:11:59 AM
Wow I knew Ron had been looking at the game but not quite that extensively.  Thanks for the comments. I want to re-read some bits and give a full answer in a day or two but these are my comments so far. I will also say Ron, you picked up nicely on many of the issues that were bothering me as well.

Allies, Rivals, and Enemies. NPC's can be Allies, Enemies, and Rivals.  The Fate will define them based on the campaign/setting.  This points out though that I need to expand the Fate's section as its lacking.... which is exactly what Major Point #2 spells out.

Dice: Yes I was never happy with the 50:50 chance.  I decided on d10 because I wanted a wider range of possibility but it really does not do that.  Making it 7 to 10 only turns it into a White Wolf Storyteller frustration fest so I think it will be more appropriate to make 5-10 a success and 1-4 a failure.  

The rest I want to think on some more.  I have a great deal of food for thought now considering EODL.  Thanks Ron and I will check out those artists.

I Am in the middle of re-forging (no pun intended) the websites.  So EODL can  be found under the Worlds and Settings link.  The EODL page is not yet re-done but soon will be.


Title: [Empire of the Dragon Lotus] Game text comments
Post by: ADGBoss on August 23, 2003, 06:15:50 AM
Grrr sorry I hit submit too soon.

Regarding a second idea for the Dice  issue. Perhaps keeping the 6-10 range but giving the increasing numbers some degree of success? so a 6 is a success but a 7 is a better success.  That does add another level of complexity or at least another set of numbers to the equation.  I worry over the numbers creating numbers creating numbers mechanics of some systems and I was trying to be streamlined. Of course streamlined is not always better or even good, so...


Title: [Empire of the Dragon Lotus] Game text comments
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 23, 2003, 10:14:04 AM
Hi Sean,

I agree with you about the numbers creating numbers issue.

However, the 50-50 per die isn't a problem, itself. In fact, it's quite reasonable (see Universalis and Story Engine), because it makes the dice pool meaningful: More dice = higher chance, without target numbers complicating the matter.

Now, Universalis offers a good lesson, though, because although the dice are 50-50 in terms of success, their raw values (1-10 each) do make a difference in terms of effects. For your game, I don't suggest the exact same principles be related to the raw values  (narration, Director Stance) ... but I do think that the raw values can be used in some kind of interesting way, using the two points I laid out.

Once you get an idea of what features or effects you want those raw values to introduce into play, then what size of die can be decided upon, because the range should reflect the range of effects you're interested in.


Title: [Empire of the Dragon Lotus] Game text comments
Post by: Mark Johnson on August 23, 2003, 10:23:26 AM
If you do decide to implement a level of success rule.  I might suggest that you make 6-10 a failure and 1-5 to a success.  That way a "1" is a first degree success... a "3" a third degree success etc.  If you keep 50/50 odds without degrees based on numbers rolled, simply make odds a success and evens a failure, that way players could use whatever dice that had on hand.

Title: [Empire of the Dragon Lotus] Game text comments
Post by: ADGBoss on August 25, 2003, 10:19:11 AM
Ok I am going to throw a bit of an idea / example out so I am sure I am on the right page...

Lets ay d10 for resolution

1-5 Success
6-10 Failure

After you get a winner, look at the highest success for the winner...
a 5 = 0 extra successes
a 2-4 = 1 Extra Success on their next roll
a 1= Da Quing which I think means "Great Punch" (if I am wrong you chinese language scholars please correct me)

Now this could be a great advantage for the winner and represent momentum.
It could also put importance on the very first contest of dice.


Title: [Empire of the Dragon Lotus] Game text comments
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 26, 2003, 10:58:55 AM
Hi Sean,

I accidentally stuck this paragraph into the Thugs & Thieves comments, but it was supposed to go into yours. Here it is:

The "wandering, godless ronin" mechanics are surpassing brilliant. I love it, especially because it's a solid punishment mechanic that still permits, if one is so inclined, a chance for redemption. But it does not, thank you thank you, romanticize the "ronin" thing by making them more effective - the curse of most samurai RPGs.


Title: [Empire of the Dragon Lotus] Game text comments
Post by: simon_hibbs on September 01, 2003, 07:22:27 AM
I've been looking through EODL too, and have some editorial comments. I love the setting and it looks like a project that's realy coming together nicely, but the text is a little rough in a few areas.

Character - Chapter Definitions

The Talent descriptions in particular need to be stated a little more clearly. For example under Cunning, the term "outmaneuver" can mean tactical maneuvering as in combat. Perhaps -

Cunning: The ability to out think and outmaneuver opponents in social or political conflicts.

Talent Specialties - I'd rename these Special Talents, but that's just me.

Wounds - says how many you get, but doesn't actualy define what they are.

Assets : Not informative at all. As stated, this is just confusing.

Character Creation, Step 1

The first chapter opf Step 1 is confusing. A6ttributes don't actualy start at 6, for example. You could just drop the first sentence, and rephrase.

"Each player decides which of the three attributes is the most important to their persona, and which is the least important. The least important attribute is assigned a value of 5, and the most important is assigned a value of 7. The remaining attribute is assigned a value of 6."

I'd sugest changing the paragraph order so that you describe what the attributes are before describing assigning values to them.

Step 2: Decide Talents

The Cunning description needs altering as discussed before, clarifying that outmaneuver doesn't include aoutmaneuvering physicaly. I'd emphasize it's use in social contests.


Too much game system, tell me what they are before telling me about the game mechanics. Similarly, I'd save the example for later, when the reader knows what contests are and what the game mechanics references mean.

Lose the last one-sentence paragraph about gaining specialties and increasing stuff. It's not needed yet.

Step 3: Wounds and Assets

I don't see the connection between wounds and assets, that puts them in the same section.

I'd suggest that players fill in wound boxes with 'L's starting from the left hand most box working right, and 'S' from the right hand box working left. That way it's obvious whether the persona has more Ls or Ss.

In the second sentence on Assets, I'd replace 'anything' with 'any advantageous resource' and 'can come up with' with 'agree to'. Make it clear the Fates must agree to any asset, and has a veto over game-killing excesses.

Step 5: Legacies and Missions

Is a Legacy something passed down to them from their ancestors, or some achievement the character will leave 'as a legacy' for future generations? It's not clear why it's called a Legacy, as against a Goal for example.

Game Play

Conflict - third paragraph, last sentence -

"Combat Conflicts are also known as Phsical Conflicts."

Well ok, but not all physical contests are combat contests, so if I say "a Physical Conflict" and mean a combat conflict, that is ambiguous.


This suffers from an ordering problem. You're giving a special rule for modifying the normal contest rules before giving the actual contest rules. I'd consider re-oprdering the whole chapter.

Narrating Attribute Sacrifice

The example narration is confusing. it looks like the player is saying "Cao Zhang - Grrr I have no Magical ability... etc" Consider moving the quotes, as:

Cao Zhang - "Grr I have no Magical ability..etc"

So it's clear that it's Cao Zhang speaking, unless I've got the wrong end of the stick.


Third paragraph, third sentence. I think you've got an o (oh) character instead of a zero where it says "10 Tokens".

That's about as far as I've got going through the draft. All just minor editing and textual points. Lovely game, I look froward to readign more.

Best regards,

Simon Hibbs

Title: [Empire of the Dragon Lotus] Game text comments
Post by: ADGBoss on September 02, 2003, 03:55:14 AM
Thank  you Simon, I think the text is more then a little rough :) I appreciate you picking up some of the rougher spots.  I have added those I had missed but you had noticed to my list of revisions.