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Author Topic: Looking for Constructive Feedback On New Survival Horror Role-Playing Game  (Read 1928 times)
DarrenGMiller
Member

Posts: 6


« on: May 02, 2010, 01:14:09 PM »

Kind of like taking my clothes off in public, I'm working on designing a game on my blog.  I'm posting most of my work, section-by-section, on my blog as soon as I finish a draft.  I am looking for constructive feedback to help make this game the best it can be.  I'm a veteran gamer with almost 30 years of experience running rpg's, and have written a ton of material for my gaming groups over the years, but this is the first time I am writing a game from the ground up for eventual publication (I hope).

The game is going to be a survival horror rpg set in a darker version of the modern world and a mysterious other-world I'm calling Morior.

In my first post, I wrote the concept for my game: http://www.geekcentricity.com/2010/04/laying-cornerstone-of-concept-building.html
In the second post, I laid out a synopsis: http://www.geekcentricity.com/2010/05/welcome-to-my-world-building-rpg-pt-2.html
Please stop by and let me know what you think.

DM
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Christoph Boeckle
Member

Posts: 455

Geneva, Switzerland


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« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2010, 08:08:06 AM »

Hello Darren

Welcome to the Forge, the place where everybody walks around naked without even noticing it. I hope you'll find what help you are coming for!

Generally, it's not a good idea to tell people to read some stuff somewhere else. It's not grabby. It doesn't sound like you're really asking us, here on the Forge, so we often don't feel very concerned. However, the good news is that based on your two blog posts, you absolutely have the material we need to discuss your game idea, which is what this specific forum (First Thoughts) is for.

Do you think you can write a short paragraph or two telling us (a) what the setting is (b) who the characters are, (c) what the characters are supposed to do in this setting and (d) why a group of people would want to sit down and give your game a go?
You've already given that information on the blog, but I think it'd be a good idea to have a focused answer here to ensure a clear direction to our discussion.

Cheers
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Regards,
Christoph
DarrenGMiller
Member

Posts: 6


« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2010, 09:02:14 AM »

Thanks, Chris.  I'm new here, so please forgive the, as one of my blog posters called it, "noobness."

What I'll do is reprint some of my blog material here for people to take a look at.

Game Concept:

The player characters are ordinary people, cut off from the world they know and forced to live off their wits and survival skills in a world where all of their worst nightmares seem to have come to life.

Synopsis:

The world is pretty much the same as the normal, real world we live in today.  We're in the infancy of the 21st century.  Yet, it is not.  The colors, contrast and textures of the world just seem a little bit off.  Light seems to be dimmer.  Everybody around you seems to be more drawn into themselves, a bit more on-edge than normal.  Tempers are quick and trust seems lacking.  During the day, there seems to be a perpetual haze, like smog, making the sun seem both dimmer and more harsh at the same time.  At night, the fog usually settles closer to the ground, muffling and distorting even normal sounds.  The news is as depressing as ever and all of our incredible technology seems to be intermittently on the fritz.  Lights flicker, traffic lights shift into safety mode, cell phone reception is erratic, and even the radio and television are prone to fits of static and white noise.  Batteries don't last as long, metal rusts more quickly, even beer and soda seem to turn flat more quickly than before.  Before what?  You have no idea.

And that is before the shift...

In this world, things sometimes seem to shift occasionally.  It's a gut-wrenching sensation and difficult to describe.  It's almost like the scene in front of you slides out of the way and everything you see starts to look like cheap B-movie props.  Like a backlot facade.  Visibility is poor, day or night.  Everything seems to age in an instant.  Buildings creak and groan audibly.  Decay is everywhere.  And worst of all, most of the people are gone.  You could be walking down a crowded city street in the middle of rush hour.  Vendors are half-heartedly hawking their wares to the weary masses.  Then, the television screens in the coffee shop next to you fill with static.  You cell phone turns itself off.  You feel a dagger of pain behind your eyes, and everybody is gone.  The bus that was driving by may sit abandoned and rusted in the middle of the street, the tires dry-rotted to uselessness.  A yellowed and faded newspaper that was printed this morning flutters in a warm, stale breeze.  Your watch may have a cracked crystal.  The battery in your cell phone is dead.  And the entire street is eerily quiet and deserted.  Except for the sounds.  There is a scratching, scuttling sound coming from the alley beside the coffee shop.  A wet slithering issues from the entrance to the subway station on the corner as you hurry past.  Sometimes you see things in the seemingly ever-present fog.  Things you wish you didn't remember.

Everybody who has experienced the shift describes it in a slightly different way.  Some report an attack of nausea, sometimes vomiting on their shoes when the shift happens.  Some claim it feels like a curtain slid open behind their eyes, leaving them dizzy and disoriented for a few moments.  Some have terrible headaches.  Some people even pass out.  A few people have described a sort of mental static that occurs around the shift, like a radio in the brain with poor reception squelching out until the moment passes.  Nobody knows exactly what causes it, or what causes the world to, just as unexpectedly, shift back.  It has always shifted back to normal.  At least the new normal.  So far.  People reappear.  The bus starts rolling.  The televisions come back on.  Your cell phone powers back up.  It's as if it never happened, other than your cracked watch.  If you're lucky.  If you're not lucky, you may encounter one of the things that are out there scuttling and slithering in the fog of that shifted world.  Then, when things shift back, someone finds your body... or at least part of it.

---

Such is the world of my as-yet-unnamed game.  There are a few terms I want to include that cover some key concepts:

The Shift - Sometimes the world just changes.  The screen of "normalcy" slides to one side and an utterly bleak and decaying world is revealed.  Most of the people who exist in the "real world" are not present in this sinister "shift world."  There are things that inhabit this world.  And most of these strange, twisted creatures seem hungry for the flesh, souls, life-force, or something that only those who make the transition into this bizarre world can provide.

Anchors - Anchors are people, and sometimes animals or even objects, who can make the transition into the "shift world."  The player characters are Anchors.  No one knows why Anchors make "The Shift", what it really is, or what causes it.  There are several theories on the matter, but none have been proven any more valid than many others.

Morior - Some Anchors refer to the "shift world" as Morior, though different Anchors refer to it by different names.  Nobody is sure who started calling it this, or when, but the name has spread.  There are Anchors who carve or otherwise mark prominent locations in the "shift world" with the word Morior, so that disoriented Anchors will see it and realize that they "aren't in Kansas anymore" as some Anchors say.  Interestingly enough, these markings do not seem to appear in the corresponding "real world" locations.

What the characters are supposed to do: The characters' first priority will be survival, followed by adaptation and investigation.  How do I prepare myself for this new reality?  What is causing these "shifts"?  When will it happen again?  What are those things out there?  Does this happen to other people?  Do any of the other Anchors have information or items that will help me?  etc.  There are a ton of hooks from there based on the gm and things the characters encounter in the world.

As for why anybody would want to sit down and play my game:  The game is aimed mainly at fans of survival horror.  Some of my strongest influences are Stephen King (lots of his works including The Mist, Under the Dome, It, The Dark Tower, etc.), the Silent Hill video games and movie, I Am Legend, Dark City, etc.  The challenge of playing an ordinary person thrown into extraordinary circumstances and trying to survive with meager supplies and little assistance is something that fans of the genre are drawn to.  I think the "shifting world" is an interesting take on things and it serves as a way to isolate the characters and keep them off balance.  I also think playing an ordinary person gives a stark contrast to the strangeness of the world around the characters.

What do you think?  I'm sure that there will be many revisions along the road between here and a finished product, so consider this Draft 1.  There is more info on the blog in the two posts linked above (and others on my blog).

Thanks in advance,
DM
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Locke
Member

Posts: 85


« Reply #3 on: May 04, 2010, 01:00:17 PM »

i like it...  cool

- think about this...  since only the anchors shift, after surviving a few times wouldn't they always carry weapons?  It would just be basic survival instincts.  I would say that any object an anchor carries could or not shift.  This means any items they wear or carry.  Maybe their clothes would change and the gun they are carrying goes missing.  It would be cool to see classes like: lawyer, cop, nurse, plumber...  everyday ordinary people.  Maybe another could be that reflections could reveal the shifted or non-shifted world.  So a person trapped could look through glass and scream at the happy people at home but they can't be heard.  Also maybe some can control shifting more than others, or every time a shift happens the persons tays longer and longer so that some older people are trapped there forever or will only briefly shift into the real world.
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Check out my game Age Past, unique rolling system, in Beta now.  Tell me what you think!
https://docs.google.com/fileview?id=0B-7APna9ZhHEZmRhNmFmODktOTgxNy00NDllLTk0MjgtMjI4YzJlN2MyNmEw&hl=en

Thanks!
Jeff Mechlinski
Jeff Russell
Member

Posts: 44


WWW
« Reply #4 on: May 05, 2010, 06:37:52 AM »

Darren,

   This looks pretty cool so far. I haven't had a chance to check out your blog yet, but have you started developing mechanics yet, or are you trying to nail the world first? I think you basic idea about "shifts" is creepy enough and broad enough to really set the tone, but allow lots of flexibility for groups to play to what scares them.

Are you planning on incorporating any horror game standbys, like 'sanity' mechanics or anything of the sort?

I haven't checked it out yet, but "Zombie Cinema" apparently has a cool dynamic for creating the sort of tense cooperation/falling apart scenarios you get in zombie movies/other survival horror with groups of people thrown together by horrifying circumstances. Horror is hard to do as a game, but you're off to a great start so far and I look forward to hearing more.
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Jeff Russell
Blessings of the Dice Gods - My Game Design Blog and home to my first game, The Book of Threes
DarrenGMiller
Member

Posts: 6


« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2010, 03:57:23 AM »

i like it...  cool

- think about this...  since only the anchors shift, after surviving a few times wouldn't they always carry weapons?  It would just be basic survival instincts.  I would say that any object an anchor carries could or not shift.  This means any items they wear or carry.  Maybe their clothes would change and the gun they are carrying goes missing.  It would be cool to see classes like: lawyer, cop, nurse, plumber...  everyday ordinary people.  Maybe another could be that reflections could reveal the shifted or non-shifted world.  So a person trapped could look through glass and scream at the happy people at home but they can't be heard.  Also maybe some can control shifting more than others, or every time a shift happens the persons tays longer and longer so that some older people are trapped there forever or will only briefly shift into the real world.

Thanks!

I like the idea of reflections seeing from one world into the other.  I have an idea for a neat item that I may use as an example of something capable of allowing sight between the worlds.  Also, I'm using the concept of Anchored Items.  Most items age to near uselessness when Shifting.  Some items, for whatever reason, stay mostly intact.  These items are highly prized by Anchors, and some may kill to get their hands on a particularly useful one.

As for controlling the Shift, my thought is that it is not controllable at all, except maybe in extremely rare circumstances (like from a place of power or with certain Anchored Items).  The fear I want to instill is that one day, things might not Shift back.

As for classes, I'm not using a class/level based system.  I'm using a skill/attribute based system that I'm writing, based on Fudge.

DM
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DarrenGMiller
Member

Posts: 6


« Reply #6 on: May 10, 2010, 04:02:43 AM »

Darren,

   This looks pretty cool so far. I haven't had a chance to check out your blog yet, but have you started developing mechanics yet, or are you trying to nail the world first? I think you basic idea about "shifts" is creepy enough and broad enough to really set the tone, but allow lots of flexibility for groups to play to what scares them.

Are you planning on incorporating any horror game standbys, like 'sanity' mechanics or anything of the sort?

I haven't checked it out yet, but "Zombie Cinema" apparently has a cool dynamic for creating the sort of tense cooperation/falling apart scenarios you get in zombie movies/other survival horror with groups of people thrown together by horrifying circumstances. Horror is hard to do as a game, but you're off to a great start so far and I look forward to hearing more.

Thanks!  Please check out the blog if you're interested, as there is a bit more info over there.  I'm working on mechanics as I work on the world.  Since I have the world pretty firmly in my head, I've been trying to design mechanics that best enable the type of play I'm envisioning.  Writing the mechanics is definitely going to be my weak point.  I'm using Fudge as my template, but I'd like to do some new things.  I'm not totally decided on sanity or morality mechanics yet.  I definitely don't want fear checks, as I want to scare the players, thus scaring the characters.  I don't want to mandate something like, "You rolled poorly, so your character runs away for 3 turns."  That would be a terrible thing to do, IMO.  I'll have to check out "Zombie Cinema."  Thanks for the rec.

Since I'm new here, can anybody tell me what the appropriate forum would be to post when I've got more of the game to share?

Thanks,
DM
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Gryffudd
Member

Posts: 6


« Reply #7 on: May 10, 2010, 08:11:11 PM »

Man, I am such a fan of the whole Silent Hill thing. It's the only survival horror game that I actually liked. Reading your write up made me wish I'd had the idea myself. Can't wait to see more. As for the correct forum for presenting game stuff, I believe this is the correct one. Once you get to playtesting or actual play there are forums for those, as well as a publishing info forum once you get that far.

I really need to post my own stuff here more, but while 8 hours at work with nothing to do but wait on the occasional customer is good for reading fora, it's not so great for posting. Smiley At least until I get better with this touchscreen keyboard.

Anyway, hope to see more on your project soon.

Pat
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Gryffudd
Member

Posts: 6


« Reply #8 on: May 10, 2010, 08:15:44 PM »

Arg, darn thing. Apologies for the double post. Could someone delete the extraneous one?

---
Done! - RE (edited to provide this notice)
« Last Edit: May 11, 2010, 06:10:08 AM by Ron Edwards » Logged
Christoph Boeckle
Member

Posts: 455

Geneva, Switzerland


WWW
« Reply #9 on: May 11, 2010, 05:56:18 AM »

Hi Darren

Sorry for not getting back in touch sooner.

Sounds like a good start to me! I've got some questions for you.

Is this going to be a GM game, where his job is to provide scenarios and reveal some secret over the course of a number of sessions of play? Or is this world only a poetic device to establish some thematic content via the characters, the GM being here to put the characters in difficult positions (e.g. with great power come great responsibilities, etc.?)

As for your question: the Forge is not used as a site to just put your game texts (if you really feel you have to do that, you can use your blog and then link to it). The best use you will get out of this forum is talking about actual instances of playtest (in the Playtest forum). You tell us what you're aiming for, you describe a session, reflect on how it reaches your goals or not, you ask questions and then discuss them with others.  As soon as you've got the basics laid out in this thread, I recommend that you dive head-first into playtesting. Refine, playtest, rinse, repeat. That's how all the cool games here came into being, that's what the people here have experience in.
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Regards,
Christoph
Malcolm Craig
Member

Posts: 263


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« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2010, 06:48:52 AM »

Hey Darren,

This all sounds really meaty, you seem to have a strong background for exciting gaming being developed here. If you are interested in seeing how other games approach the survival horror genre, there are a couple of recommendations I'd like to give:

Geiger Counter by Jonathan Walton is a free, collaborative game design to emulate survival horror movies. Definitely worth checking out.

Dead of Night
by Andrew Kenrick is more traditional (GM+Players), but offers really exciting play in the style of horror movies. The second edition comes out in a month or so.

Both of these games operate in different ways to utilise the survival horror experience and might well help you to see how the mechanics interact with the horror themes and tropes. I totally understand your point about having to work hard at the mechanical aspects of a game! Setting, background, and colour has always been my strong point. I too have to work really hard to see how mechanics work and interact in the game. Coming to somewhere like the Forge, where there are people who have an intuitive grasp of system elements and how they fit together, is a great help.

Cheers
Malcolm
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Malcolm Craig
Contested Ground Studios
www.contestedground.co.uk

Part of the Indie Press Revolution
SageThe13th
Member

Posts: 15


« Reply #11 on: May 11, 2010, 07:26:40 AM »

While I'm not a big fan of survival horror I know a lot of people who are.  So I tend to hear a lot about what makes survival horror work, and what people like about it.

I think one of the biggest stumbling blocks that a horror game must over come is the party effect.  The game becomes a lot less scary if you have a dependable group of buddies who have your back.

Some suggestions: There's always the "brute force approach" where in the party is up against in surmountable odds even if they work together.  Of course this works better in highly lethal games which may not be a direction you want to go in.

You could also find ways of driving a wedge between the PCs.  One way to do this would be to force party splits.  Maybe they don't always shift at the same time?  Admittedly, this could become annoying if it happens to frequently or for to long, since it means that not everyone's characters is actively present.  Though, you could try to find other things for players to do even if their character's aren't around.  Another method is to make it so that the PCs are paranoid of each other.  A tried and true system for this is to have some of the player's secretly be against the others.  Maybe some people develop a sort of shift madness that causes them to act unusually.  This would put normal PCs on edge, and even shift maddened PCs wouldn't have it easy because if they are discovered they will likely be abandoned or maybe even killed.

I'd also put some thought into how character back stories effects the current story.  Character's that were happy before they started shifting, or who had already gone through some trauma will be more sympathetic making their recent situation more unfortunate.  While, characters who have done horrible things in their past will add a level of creep factor to the game.  As it may serve as reason for inter-PC conflict giving the players more to worry about and will also remind players that sometimes people who seem normal can actually be pretty messed up.  Which is a scary concept if you think about it.
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DarrenGMiller
Member

Posts: 6


« Reply #12 on: May 15, 2010, 07:44:02 AM »

Hi Darren

Sorry for not getting back in touch sooner.

Sounds like a good start to me! I've got some questions for you.

Is this going to be a GM game, where his job is to provide scenarios and reveal some secret over the course of a number of sessions of play? Or is this world only a poetic device to establish some thematic content via the characters, the GM being here to put the characters in difficult positions (e.g. with great power come great responsibilities, etc.?)



This will be a fairly traditional GM game, but one where players and GM collaborate on telling the best possible story.  I'm not a fan of games whose style promotes a players vs. GM type approach.  The GM will provide scenarios which introduce conflict, play the NPC's, set the scenes, etc.
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DarrenGMiller
Member

Posts: 6


« Reply #13 on: May 15, 2010, 07:45:15 AM »

Thanks everyone!  Please keep the helpful suggestions, recommendations, etc. coming!  I appreciate your insight.

DM
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Christoph Boeckle
Member

Posts: 455

Geneva, Switzerland


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« Reply #14 on: May 17, 2010, 01:45:14 PM »

Hello Darren

All right! Do you feel you have what you need to play a first playtest session? If not, which points would you like to flesh out before?
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Regards,
Christoph
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