[Dust in the Air] Fantasy-Steampunk in Developement

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Qi Chin:
Hello there. This is my second time I'm coming to the Forge with a design idea (The first one, for those who remember something really small, was TriPent). I've had time to read up on bits of theory here and there, and to try and polish up my designing a bit. So to go to the game:

I've actually been working on this game for a while, but kept changing lots about it, until I finally decided to make it a Steampunk world. Why? Because I've never made a Steampunk game before, and the genre intrigues me. After reading up on what steampunk really is, I was guided to the game "Arcanum", which I've played for a bit. In it, it has an undertone of magic vs. science in it. To make my game different, I've added another element. But I'll explain that by trying to answer the "Big Three".

- What is Dust in the Air about?
I actually have to takes on an answer.
1.) The oppositions of the three pillars the world is set up on: Technology, Religion, and Magic. Each part is needed for everyday life to go on, but these three aspects keep opposing each other.
2.) In a world with steam technology and magic, it is religion that is the guide to how one is supposed to live, and how one is viewed among others.

Obviously, both answers build on a sort of trinity of the three mentioned aspects, but the two versions have a different focus on each aspect, the first one being all three equal, the second being religion is all-important.
From this split, there are also two answers to what the characters do:
1.) Act either as agents of one of the three aspects (mercenary or idealistic) against the other two, or as agents of balance.
2.) Support their religion, or try to find a balance in a world torn apart by its religions.

As I don't actually have any true mechanics yet, and because the question is quite difficult for someone lacking experience, I can't really answer what the players will do for now.

A bit more about the setting: It'll have fantasy-type races (but no elves, dwarves, and orcs); magic is based on emotions (essentially, magic is the manifestations of powerful emotions as effects that do something in the world), and is hence it's more "explosive" and grander as opposed to finely manipulative.

So much for now. As you can see, I'm just tossing ideas around, but I'm hoping that any questions, proddings, or suggestions will form this into a congruent picture. I've discovered that the best way for me to design is to come up with ideas, put them together, and have people ask questions about different aspects, so that I can create and connect more and more, until I have something that seems complete.

Thanks for your time.

Qi

Christoph Boeckle:
Hello!

You've got yourself some nice ideas here! I'm usually fond of three-poled interactions and this setting could be a good start for some dramatic stories!

If you don't know what it could or should be like for players (GM included) to play the game, here's what you can do for a start: describe a session you and your friends enjoyed a lot, why that was so and how it inspired you to start development of this game, over in the Actual Play section. It doesn't need to be very long, you can choose just one or two significant scenes of fiction-rules-people interaction, rather than write out the whole game-log.

By describing some real play events, we're more likely to get at the underlying stuff that is so neat to you that you're interested in making a game out of it, opposed to, for example, just talking about the fiction.

Here on the Forge it's always a good thing to have a few Actual Play reports under one's belt, it helps people understand where one is coming from and what your design idea could be pointing towards, so don't hesitate to post in Actual Play (any experience you'd like to discuss is good, even if it's about a failed session).

Qi Chin:
Well, that's the thing, there are no playing sessions with this game, mostly because it's way to early to call it a game yet. Plus, all my RPG-friends are spread out across the world.

However, to continue with the game, after having looked through John Kirk's RPG Design Pattern (an excellent read, by the way), I've come up with this:
The world is split into the three aspects of technology, magic, and religion, with religion clearly dominating over the other two, as it is religion that guides everyday life and big events. The characters are usually agents of a specific religion, either being mercenary or following their own ideals, and use technology and magic to help them accomplish their goals. I want the focus on the game to be on cinematic actions, as this will give me an opportunity to create a world where there are lots of big things happening, and it's alive and moving, with the characters thrown smack dab into the middle of a writhing mass of clockwork gears of a complex world. I'm envisioning characters clinging to ropes dangling from flying ships hundreds of feet in the air while being chased by air-pirates (a la Balou, the Bear), or fights with clockwork machinery on moving trains, or run-and-hide sequences through the crowded streets of metropoles, with steam-powered cars and people all over the place, and with flint-lock rifles being fired and daggers being thrown, or a good tavern brawl with swashbuckling aspects, as the acrobat swings his way across the room to engage the bad guys in melee as the doctor kneels behind a table with the tinker trying to fix together some gadget to get them out of that situation.

Now, I'm mostly a Narrativist, which means that I prefer game systems with clean, streamlined, intuitive, and simple rules. By that I mean they are easy to learn, don't require constant checking in tables or glossaries, and are quick to use, so that the game is not bogged down with math and complex rules decisions. I'll go step by step.
As cinematic action will be a central part of the game, I will have action points the players can use.There will be three stats, Presence, Essence, and Vigor, as well as 49 skills divided into 7 groups.As players create their characters, they will choose one of three basic personalities, Adventurous, Reflective, or Calm, which determines how and when they regenerate Action points.They will also choose one of the seven skills groups as a "class". Those skills are then cheaper to increase.
Conflict Resolution
The following things need to be determined in a conflict: Which skill, which stat, and the difficulty.Skill determines how many dice a player gets, stats show the likelihood those dice will show up as successes, and the difficulty is the number of successes needed to accomplish the task.The character receives 2 + skill rank in some die (d6, d10, or d12, I still have to decide), and rolls them.The rolled dice are compared to the stat. Any value equal to or below the value of the stat count as successes.The rolled number of successes is compared to the difficulty, which will then show if and how well or badly an action succeeded or failed.Any beneficial circumstances add dice, and any detrimental circumstances remove them.
Now, I really like the idea of having narrative reward, but from what I've read, either players run out of funky descriptions quickly, or they become tired of having to explain stuff in minute detail, or at some points it's simply not worth it. Maybe I'm wrong, but here's my take on things: Characters can spend actions points to increase their odds of success. They can spend an action point before rolling dice, and get bonus dice depending on how well they describe what is happening. The cooler and cinematic the description, the more bonus dice (ranging from 1 to maybe 4).
To regenerate action points, you check which personality type the player has chosen for his character. Adventurous characters have a chance of regaining action points when spending them, reflective characters when increasing their skills, and calm ones while taking a rest and doing non-adventure stuff (which should still be played out).

I'm still checking what kind of a combat system I want, but I'll keep the main mechanic, and maybe add stuff like weapons, armor, cover, and other circumstances as modifiers.

How's that sound? I hope that I now have a clear focus (cinematic action in a strange yet vaguely familiar world), and have started designing the system towards that goal. Any unclear parts, suggestions, or just general questions of interest?

Qi

Christoph Boeckle:
Without playtesting it's going to be hard to tell anything concrete about the game design. Have you tried finding players via Clinton Nixon's FindPlay? Quite a few visitors of the Forge are signed up there and you might find some gamers near where you live. It seems to be down right now, I've launched a thread on Clinton's forum here to check it out though.

You seem to have a good foundation for writing a playtest document and I encourage you to do so! It's a good exercise at the least.

And don't forget, an Actual Play report about any game you've played before could help to understand your general design goals better!

Qi Chin:
Thanks for the link, but i don't really know how to get it to work, and I doubt there's a lot of gamers in Taipei.
About the Actual Play thing, I've looked around a bit, but I don't really know how to post in there. Plus, our last gaming sessions were quite a while (7 months plus) back, so I'll have difficulty remembering stuff.

One aspect of what I think I could ask for a bit of help is how beneficial or detrimental fantasy races, or rather the amount of fantasy races, will be to such a game. I do want them, but I don't know whether to add a whole bunch, add a whole bunch and just allow a few as PC-races, or just to add a few.
The reason I want fantasy races is because I want to emphasize the fantasy part of the setting, plus it would create a good contrast. Imagine lion-men in suits or stone-golems guarding banks.

Qi

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