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Author Topic: Game design notes for Hep Catz & Hell Kittenz  (Read 9552 times)
Jared A. Sorensen
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Posts: 1463

Darksided


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« on: November 17, 2002, 05:37:45 PM »

Hey, peeps.

Here are some preliminary design notes on the game.

The game is a furry-take on life in America in the late fifties and early sixties. More to the point, it's a look at the lives of teenagers, as seen through cats' eyes. The world isn't America during those years...I'm using them for the look and feel (so this isn't alt.history with furries).

The inspiration comes from a variety of sources. Movies like West Side Story, Grease, American Graffiti, Rebel Without a Cause and even stuff like Cry Baby, Peggy Sue Got Married and Back to the Future. Musical inspiration comes from the music of those times: rock n' roll, surf music, do wop and rockabilly.

The player characters in HK&HK (HK^2?) are anthropomorphic cats. This isn't a furry game where you get to pick and choose (ala Ironclaw, Usagi Yojimbo, The Questing Beast or World Tree). Why cats? It's pretty obvious (to me, at least). Cats *act* like rebellious teenagers. They do what they want, where and when they want. They're extremely appearance-conscious. They act cool (or try to). They tend to "hang out" all day -- and when they're not hanging out they're getting into fights, racing around like crazy or trying to find a lady-cat. Sounds a lot like the archetypal "greaser" character -- leather jacket, motorcycle (or hot rod), pomade, black plastic comb and permanently-affixed sneer.

I don't know too much about the furry thing so I'm not going to pay much lip service to it. I'm looking more at sources like Cats (the musical), the Cat RPG by John  Wick, and the animated Disney film Robin Hood (which had foxes in the lead roles but hey, whatever).

So yeah, the PC's are all felines. Housecat varieties only...no pumas or lions or bobcats. Most PC's will be teenagers (plus or minus a few years) and although I'm leaving it open as to social strata, I can see the average character will be cast in the James Dean mold (well, the male characters anyway). Where the character is from will tie into the system somehow. So you could choose to be an Alley Cat (from the streets/urban areas), a House Cat (suburban or affluent) or a Barn Cat (raised in a rural/country environment).

Many of the NPCs will be cats. Dogs will be authority figures (principals, cops, gruff teachers, etc.). I'm puzzling over casting mice and birds as immigant and black NPCs respectively...not sure about that. I don't want the game to be about racism -- but I like the imagery of the crow musician hanging out on the street corner with his licorice stick...or a mouse with a thick Old World accent and a white apron sweeping out his store in the morning. Maybe it's a cheese shop? This aspect of the game draws a bit from Art Spiegelman's Maus and Ralph Bakshi's Fritz the Cat. Both kind of revolutionized comics and animation and it would be cool to pay tribute to them. We'll say what y'all have to say about that.

The system will be fairly traditional. Attributes will most likely be based on cat-like qualities or feline anatomy (ala Wick's Cat RPG where your attributes were defined as claws, tail, eyes, etc. with a corresponding rating for each -- I'll probably be cribbing a lot of game system ideas from Cat as it had some cool stuff going on).

One important aspect of the game will involve Lives. No surprise there, right?

My idea is to use a karma-based system as the main task resolution mechanic. If your character isn't able to accomplish something, or is competent enough to do it but you wanna mix things up a bit, you can wager Lives and have success or failure be dictated by a roll of the dice.

Let's say Tommy the Cat is trying to break into the principal's office after-hourse (to sneak a peek at the upcoming exams, probably). If Tommy is good enough, he can just break into the office, no problem. But let's say he's not good enough and he wants to wager some of his Lives to perform the task.  Most characters start with 9 lives (you can spend Lives during chargen to do stuff...but I'm not sure what at the moment). Let's say Tommy has all 9 of his Lives.

The difference between the character's ability (defined by the player at chargen) and the difficulty of the task (defined by the GM at time-of-resolution or whenever) is called the Odds. If the Odds are in the character's favor (the difficulty is less than the attribute), the task is easier but more Lives must be wagered. If the difficulty is greater than the attribute, the Odds are not in the character's favor but success will yield greater results.

Ignoring the particulars of "what do the numbers mean?" and "what is the die-rolling mechanic?" -- let's say Tommy has a Breaking Into Office-related attribute of 5. The Difficulty of the task is 7. This means that the Odds are 2:1 in favor of the Difficulty (yes, I know it would get weird if the Difficulty was 6...just don't worry about that right now).

In game terms, Tommy will wager one of his Lives and roll one die against the Difficulty (a target number or two dice or he'll need two success or something...dunno yet). Success means that Tommy will a) succeed at the task and b) earn his wagered Life back PLUS an additional Life. The max. number of Lives a character may possess is 9 so in this case, he doesn't benefit from it being a difficult task. But he does get into the office.

If the difficulty was less than Tommy's attribute, he'd have to wager more of his lives to get anything...but that gives him more dice to roll so it's a lot easier.

What I'm getting at is how cats often do stupid things...or overly complex things...for no apparent reason. The answer is that they're trying to boost their lives back up. So the more dangerous the task, the more they're rewarded. :)

There will also be Girlfriend/Boyfriend game mechanics. Characters will become more effective when their S.O. is around...but less effective when a potentialS.O. is around. This should be pretty funny for those first dates when both parties are interested...naturally, all hell will break loose because both characters will be suffering penalties. :) This also means that if a character has an S.O. but is "tom-catting around," it's in the character's best interests to go on prowl in the presence of his/her S.O. (because the penalties and bonuses will cancel one another out!).

Of course, I'll also have rules for rumbles and street-races.

Oh, and a musical narrative mechanic. I have no idea how this will work out...no, you won't be required to sing. Give me a few weeks to ponder it.

Later, cats.

- Jared

(oh yeah, the game title will use an ampersand because I want the curl in the & to look like a cat tail. Yeah, I know...so sue me)
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jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
Spooky Fanboy
Member

Posts: 585


« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2002, 07:12:42 AM »

Although I overlooked this little gem in favor of Decay, I like it. It's cute funny and may be worth a good series of one-shots to break the mood of more serious games.

In that sense, kinda like Cartoon Action Hour, but with hairballs. ;-)
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Jared A. Sorensen
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« Reply #2 on: December 22, 2002, 07:45:10 AM »

Quote from: Spooky Fanboy
Although I overlooked this little gem in favor of Decay, I like it. It's cute funny and may be worth a good series of one-shots to break the mood of more serious games.

In that sense, kinda like Cartoon Action Hour, but with hairballs. ;-)



For the new readers...

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not call my games "one-shots." It's incredibly insulting to infer that a game is "only worth playing once." If you mean something different, say so.

And HK&HK isn't going to be comedic, despite the cartoony color detail.

Thanks,

- J
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jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
Spooky Fanboy
Member

Posts: 585


« Reply #3 on: December 22, 2002, 09:05:06 AM »

OOOOOOOPPPPSSSS!!!

Yes, that did sound insulting and I apologize. Maybe I should have just said it would be something different from what I'm used to playing.

In any event, it does sound cool and I look forward to hearing more.
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Proudly having no idea what he's doing since 1970!
Spooky Fanboy
Member

Posts: 585


« Reply #4 on: December 22, 2002, 10:50:40 AM »

Let me try this again...

First, when I've used the term "one-shots" in the past, I've always meant: a two-three session adventure of a system not currently being used for a full-scale campaign. I did not use it to mean that it was a once-used, never to be played again game. I meant a game where the adventures were not interconnected by using the same characters or with the campaign-style story arc. Apparently, I've been using it wrong. Oh, well.

Second, my groups tend to play games involving epic, earth-shattering powerz, save-the-world storylines. I like those and get the most out of those kind of stories, whether it's superheroes at one end of the spectrum or Call-of_Cthulhu horror at the other. I mean games like Mage, Alyria, Lord of the Rings, Schism, Nine Worlds (big potential as a candidate!), Sorceror, etc.

Games that are more down-to-earth in scale, like Hep Katz & Hell Kittenz, or shoot for a lighter, sometimes more comedic tone, like Cartoon Action Hour or Elfs or, at the extreme, Toon, aren't games that I or most people I game with are going to try to make into full-fledged campaigns, preferring instead to play them for intermittent adventures between world-shaking and world-saving. That's just what we like and how we game.

Does that mean I think that Hep Katz & Hell Kittenz couldn't be made into a serious epic, with serious issues like family problems, running away, etc. being addressed and done well? Hell, no! Angst and acne have been part of teenage life since teenagers were invented! Being a teenager has never been easy. Likewise, Cartoon Action Hour could easily model more serious 90's-00's cartoons like Batman, the new Justice League, He-Man, Thundercats, and so on. My groups don't usually do that, though.

And let me make this clear: I am not belittling the games that I don't make campaigns out of. They've usually all have been blasts, or at least enjoyable. We've had an ongoing game of InSpectres that started out as a one-shot, but has slowly started taking on a life of it's own just because it's been damn entertaining. (Necromantic French Chef and his Mystic Ovens of Doooooom! It's a lot cooler than it sounds, believe me.)

In short, I realize how I sounded with that first post. So many days of no one saying anything about it, and then I come along and make it sound like fluff. Not cool, and certainly not what I meant to imply. But it was miscommunication, I am looking forward to hearing more about it, and I hope that post wasn't discouraging or embittering. Sorry.
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Cynthia Celeste Miller
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Posts: 268


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« Reply #5 on: January 04, 2003, 06:49:25 AM »

Quote from: Spooky Fanboy
Likewise, Cartoon Action Hour could easily model more serious 90's-00's cartoons like Batman, the new Justice League, He-Man, Thundercats, and so on. My groups don't usually do that, though.


Actually, SF, Cartoon Action Hour is designed specifically to deal with the action cartoons like He-Man and Thundercats.  But yeah, it could be modified a bit to model '90s - '00s cartoons too.  :)
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Cynthia Celeste Miller
President, Spectrum Games
www.spectrum-games.com
^mortis^
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« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2003, 01:46:14 PM »

HK^2  sounds like it should be...well, the cat's meow, so to speak! ;) (sorry, couldn't resist..heh)

In the strange case that you haven't seen them, here are a few other great sources for inspiration:

* Fritz the Cat  (not for setting, but for the anthropomorphic aspects...)

* The Wanderers (1960's, but whatever...still a great movie; old but one of my faves)

can't wait to see what you come up with!


^m^
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^M^
--------------
Kreg Mosier
http://www.goddamnindependent.com
Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 2341


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« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2003, 01:58:38 PM »

There will also be Girlfriend/Boyfriend game mechanics....Of course, I'll also have rules for rumbles and street-races....Oh, and a musical narrative mechanic.

Puh-leez...acknowledge your real influences Jared:

Hey, man, I don't feel like goin' to school no more
Me neither. Can't make me go. No way daddy-o

I ain't goin' to school it starts too early for me
Well listen man I ain't goin' to school no more it starts much, much too
early for me
I don't care about readin' , writin', 'rithmetic or history

I'm gonna walk to the corner and meet my little Marie
I'm gonna walk to the corner and meet my little Marie
Well she's the only girl in this whole world who understands me


Paul
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My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans
billslates
Guest
« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2003, 03:26:20 PM »

Cool stuff. I really admire your works, because they're so different and unique, and you have games for almost every interest or subject, while at the same time, each game has a unique and different element that makes for different game strategies, rather than the regular hack and slash.
Very creative stuff.
I remember that one of the first P&P RPGs I played was Pumpkin Town, on webRPG. I'm still fond of those days, even though they were short.
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