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If the bishop's happy, we're happy

Happy Bishop Games - If the bishop's happy, we're happy

Free Quickstarter for One by One

We are gearing up for launching One by One, our storytelling RPG of survival horror, in the next few months. That means getting quotes for artwork, experimenting with layout design, and figuring out that hot mess known as Kickstarter.

But that also means we have created a free version of the One by One rules. The One by One Quickstarter has all of the core rules in a small, artwork-free PDF. Not only do we hope to build some buzz before the game launches, we believe every player should have access to the core rules. That’s why this is a free download. So get it and pass it around all you want. It’s free!

What will the finished product have that this does not? Lots of stuff: scripts, which are our version of the Fiasco playsets (which, in turn, is sort of like an adventure or scenario); artwork; glossary; mediography; index; table of contents; and more. In other words, the One by One Quickstarter can be used to play the game, but you’d definitely want the real deal eventually.

One by One playtest results: Success!

We’ve been playtesting One by One, our upcoming story rpg, and the results have been uniformly positive. One by One is looking good!

Specifically, players are saying the love the resolution tables. Huh? What are those? They’re ways to add complications to characters–and even kill them off.

When a scene ends, players roll dice and compare the results to a table in their particular script (aka setting). For flashback scenes, this adds complications to the game. In the “Arkham County” script, one result is that your character has secretly been a cultist all this time! In the “A Cold, Dark Space” script, you might break the navigation controls so the ship–and the alien monster aboard it–cannot be turned away from Earth.

For continuing scenes, you can get similar complications. More importantly, the roll decides which character will die! Either the lead character dies, the supporting character dies, or the two players need to roll off with the highest roll surviving the scene.

Another bright spot are the central questions. Before starting a scene, you need to create a question that will be answered by the scene, such as, “Why is the serial killer going after everyone” or, “What clues to the monster’s origin can be gained from the library?” A common complaint about story rpgs in general is that players are sometimes lost as to what to do next. These central questions remove that problem.

What isn’t working? Not much, to be honest. The same tables mentioned above as a positive can sometimes be too random for players’ tastes, but that could be an issue of taste rather than anything being broken. That said, we will be adding rules that clearly state how to make things less random if it makes for a better story.

Special thanks to Stephen Whitehead and his group for running independent playtests. The data from those are always good, and we appreciate their time and effort. You guys rock!

The 4 scripts of One by One

As with Fiasco, One by One will have scripts that describe the particular setting to be used in a game session. Four will be included in the rulebook, including:

  • Arkham County: Massachusetts, 1923. You received a letter from an old colleague, begging you to come to Arkham County to help him protect its residents from some unnamed horror. Your friend had dabbled in the occult and read many ancient, strange books, but you have never heard him so disturbed. People have been disappearing in the county, and now whatever is taking them, is after you.
  • Camp Chippapuok: In the early 1980s, a group of teenagers are looking for a place to party. Someone mentions the old, abandoned Camp Chippapuok upstate. Hey, why not? No one’s there right now, not after all those kids died years ago. It’s the perfect place to drink some beer, smoke some weed, and maybe even get lucky! But the thing that killed those kids is still there, and it’s not happy to find all these teenagers in the summer camp.
  • Cold, Dark Space: The deep space exploration vessel Henry Hudson surveyed planet HN-112 as ordered. The scientists, crew, and Marines found the planet to be Earth-like, full of life and ripe for colonization. Samples of the local flora and fauna were taken as per regulations, and now the Hudson is on route to Earth. But something killed the captain, and whatever did it is still loose on the ship. And it’s hungry.
  • Whitechapel Vigilance Committee: Jack the Ripper is terrorizing London’s Whitechapel neighborhood. Ladies of the evening have not only been murdered but mutilated as well. With the police unable to protect the people or find the killer, volunteers have formed a “vigilance” committee to patrol the evening streets. But tonight, something is hunting the hunters–the volunteers are now being killed by this mysterious Jack.

These scripts do more than create the setting. Each has two parts:

The first is character creation. When you make a character for One by One, you’ll roll on tables in the chosen script to generate a connection between your character and the one on your right. In Arkham County, the two characters could be academic rivals, veterans of the Great War, or a bootlegger and a cop on the take. But in Cold Dark Space, the two can be clueless scientists, android and android-hater, or weary bughunt vets. This makes every character different yet perfect for the setting.

The second is scene resolution. When you finish a scene, the player whose turn it is picks one die and rolls on a table included in the script. For a flashback scene, this brings complications such as “The lead character is secretly a cultist” or, “The supporting character is not human and hasn’t been for years”. In a continuing scene, one character will die! (But since you can roleplay a flashback, you are never out of the game.) Again, these are tailored to the specific setting: Your character can be driven insane in Arkham County, chased by a madman in Camp Chippapouk, covered in acidic alien blood in Cold, Dark Space, and accused of being the killer in Whitechapel Vigilance Committee.

As we said, the core book will include four scripts. Additional scripts will be made available for free downloads at our website, and we will encourage other designers (especially new ones!) to create their own.

HBG Looking for Playtesters

It’s been a while since we last posted, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been working. In fact, our new game is ready for playtesting.

One by One is a story game similar to Fiasco, but where that game focuses on crimes gone wrong, One by One focuses on survival horror. That genre is quite large, and the game is flexible enough to allow all of that. Crazed serial killer at the summer camp? Lovecraftian weirdness in 1920’s New England? Alien killing machine loose somewhere on the space ship? We can do all of that.

But we need playtesting! If you’re interested in playtesting One by One, there’s several ways to do that.

  1. I will be running One by One online through Google Hangouts (or something similar) in the near future. If you want to join us, send me an email to wjmacguffin at gmail and we’ll arrange a time.
  2. You can run it with your local group. I’ll email you the playtest docs, and off you go!
  3. And if you don’t have the time to playtest the game, but would like to read it and make comments, that’s great!

Again, just send me an email at wjmacguffin at gmail and let’s talk!

One by One: Survival Horror Story Game

As we said earlier, our game Teilhard’s Agents is on hiatus. It should be a big game (big as in scope and size), and we don’t have the time or resources to produce that game right now. Instead, we are working on a new game: One by One.

One by One is a survival horror storytelling rpg. As with the game Fiasco, players take turns creating scenes and building a story. But instead of focusing on a crime involving people with poor impulse control, One by One focuses on a monster stalking the characters, killing them off one by one.

Some of the key features of our new game include:

  • Different settings and monsters. Struggle to escape Mythos creatures in 1920’s New England, a serial killer in a 1980’s summer camp, or an alien creature aboard a spaceship trying to reach Earth.
  • Strong narrative control. When it is your turn, you frame the scene. Everyone playing in the scene can add details and shape the direction, but it is your scene–you can decide if new details are irrelevant or off-topic.
  • The Crisis. All games start halfway through the story. No struggling to decide where to go–you’re already in the story!
  • Flashbacks: While you will create scenes that move the story forward, you can also create flashback scenes that can impact the future. Does your character need a gun? Use a flashback to give her one!
  • One by one, characters are killed off until there is only one survivor. (But because you can play flashback scenes, you are never out of the game.)

One by One is currently in the early stages of production.


Teilhard’s Agents on hiatus

It’s been a while since we discussed Teilhard’s Agents, our upcoming game mixing Jungian psychology, emotion theory, and The Matrix. That’s solely because we’ve needed to focus on our real lives and jobs, and simply didn’t have time for game design.

But a funny thing happened during this time. We started thinking about Fiasco and Durance, two great games by Jason Morningstar. If you’ve never played either, you should. They are both story games (aka indie rpgs) and both rock. I don’t think you could play either as a campaign, but as far as one-shots go, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better game.

They are also relatively short and cheap, at least compared to a game book like Pathfinder or whatnot. They are high quality, don’t get me wrong, but I couldn’t help but think how much easier it would be to produce a game like this.

Therefore, Teilhard’s Agents is on hiatus. Life is just too complicated right now for us to produce that game with the level of quality and quantity that it deserves. Instead, we are working on a story game similar to Fiasco but with a very different feel. More on this game in the coming weeks.

Emotions, Opposites, and Dyads

Teilhard’s Agents explores the emotional underpinnings of politics. In the game, you can alter the emotions of entire cultural groups, thereby changing their stance on issues like abortion, taxation, capital punishment, and so on. But before we can explain how that works, we need to explain how we define emotions.

We started with the Robert Plutchik’s emotion wheel model, but felt it needed some minor edits to fit into the game we’re designing. Thus, we have eight primary emotions arranged in opposing pairs:

  • Happiness vs. Sadness
  • Trust vs. Disgust
  • Fear vs. Anger
  • Surprise vs. Anticipation

(Using Fear and Anger as opposites might not make sense at first, but think of their extremes: Terror and Rage. Someone who is terrified will avoid the scary thing at all costs, whereas someone who is raging will likely attack the angering thing.)

These emotions are primary, meaning they are deep and strong. However, there are also emotion dyads: blending of two emotions. As with the primary emotions, they are put in opposing pairs:

  • Love (Happiness + Trust) vs. Hate (Sadness + Disgust)
  • Respect (Trust + Fear) vs. Contempt (Disgust + Anger)
  • Passiveness (Fear + Surprise) vs. Aggressiveness (Anger + Anticipation)
  • Pessimism (Surprise + Sadness) vs. Optimism (Anticipation + Happiness)

The idea behind all of this is to quantify and define “emotions”. Everyone knows what emotions are, but because we are using this as a variable in the game’s mechanics, we need to define what is and what is not included. Now we have a list of 16 defined emotions (primary and dyad) to use when building personas/shadows for characters. We also need them for the epirroi – the emotion creatures that inhabit the noosphere.

More on that soon.

Persona/Shadow emotions

Since Teilhard’s Agents focuses on emotions and Jungian psychology, it only makes sense to include personas and shadows for the player-characters.

Your persona is your public face; the mask you wear so other people will see you in a positive light. In this game, you pick one emotion as your persona: Trust, Happiness, Optimism, etc.

Your shadow is the opposite of your persona. It’s how you tend to act when stressed, upset, and so on. In this game, you pick the emotion that’s the opposite of your persona emotion: Disgust, Sadness, Pessimism, etc.

The persona/shadow has two affects on the game:

  1. They are roleplaying hooks. If your persona/shadow is “Respect/Contempt”, then your character is a noticeably respectful person–most of the time. But when really upset, your character can be full of scorn and derision. You start the game with your persona in place, but as you gain stress, you must roll to keep your shadow under control. These rolls get harder as you gain stress, making it more likely that you will surrender to your shadow emotion.
  2. Since creatures in the noosphere are built on emotions, those that match your persona/shadow emotions will be strangely attracted to you. On the other side, those that are diametrically opposed to your persona/shadow will be openly hostile. It also changes any glitch into a success or failure as appropriate. If your persona/shadow is “Interest/Fear”, Flat Stalkers (based on interest) and Shakers (based on fear) will be unafraid, even curious, when meeting you in the noosphere.

What’s a glitch? More on that soon.

Zombies in a Bundle

Ah, the bag of holding. A treasure from old school D&D, it was a sack connected to a pocket dimension. You could put a herd of elephants inside it and still looked like a little bag. Very useful but still not as cool as the Bundle of Holding.

This gem is a collection of roleplaying games (PDFs mostly, some ePUB) from a variety of designers and companies, all current editions and DRM-free, so you can share these with friends. Until 10/26/13 (only 4 days!), you can purchase 5 horror rpgs, including:

  • Exquisite Replicas: Your slow descent into madness and terror, and your attempts to fight back.
  • In Dark Alleys: Heretics driven to seek truth despite danger. (This is the ONLY place to get a PDF of this game!)
  • Outlive Outdead: Play a human–and when he dies, play zombies. (Yes, our game!)
  • Rotworld: Fight for survival in a world gone to rotters.
  • Abandon All Hope: Hell is other people. And weird psychic aliens. Aboard a prison spaceship.

Normally, buying all 5 games would cost around $69.00 USD. But that’s not how the Bundle of Holding works, Instead, you set your own price (min. of $6.95 USD). You can get five great horror rpgs for a fraction of the price!

But that’s not all! (The Bundle of Holding is aptly named.) If you agree to pay more than the current average price (which is listed on the bottom of the Bundle page), you will receive 2 bonus games:

The Bundle of Holding accepts Google Wallet, PayPal, and Amazon Payments. All are downloaded from links emailed to you.

Good enough? Not for the Bundle of Holding! 10% of your payment goes to two charities: Strive for College and Deworm the World.

To summarize: You can get 7 great horror rpgs for less than the cost of 1, and a portion of the proceeds goes to two worthy charities. Beat that! 

The Bundle of Holding won’t last forever! Head over there now before it disappears!

It’s the technology

Teilhard’s Agents has two different takes on the traditional rpg attribute scene: It’s the technology and monsters roll on you. Today, we’ll focus on technology.

In the game, you play a social scientist who has her mind uploaded into the noosphere, a dimension where emotions and archetypes are real creatures. Because of that, this game does not include any stats like Strength or Intelligence. Instead, we have three attributes based on the technology used to upload you into the noosphere: Coherence, Signal Clarity, and Bandwidth.

  • Coherence is the strength of the signal used to send your mind into the noosphere.
  • Signal clarity represents the accuracy of the data being sent and received.
  • Bandwidth shows how much room there is for data to go back and forth.

Each of these three attributes has its own dyad, or a pair of related dimensions. These dyads represent a trade-off: As you get stronger in one dimension, you get weaker in the other.

  • Coherence has the Potency/Immunity dyad that represents how real you are in the noosphere. A strong potency means you can more easily affect the noosphere–but it can affect you more easily in return. If you want to avoid being attacked, you could dial up your immunity–but that means it’s harder for you to hit things.
  • Signal clarity has the Perception/Stealth dyad that represents the quality of data sent/received while in the noosphere. A strong perception means you can more easily see, hear, and feel things in the noosphere–but creatures in the noosphere can more easily perceive you in return. If you want to hide, you could dial up the stealth–but that means it’s harder for you to spot things.
  • Bandwidth has the Throughput/Speed dyad that represents the space available to send/receive data while in the noosphere. A strong throughput means you can more easily “upload” gear that’s real in the noosphere (think The Matrix)–but as you clog your bandwidth, things in the noosphere can act faster than you. If you want to act faster, you could dial up your speed–but that means you can use less equipment in the noosphere.

How do you roll? The three attributes receive a die type (d6, d8, or d10 to start with) and that die’s range is split between the two dimensions of the dyad. A starting character could look like this:

Coherence d8 (Potency 1-4 : Immunity 5-8)

Signal clarity: d10 (Perception 1-6 : Stealth 7-10)

Bandwidth: d6 (Throughput 1-2 : Speed 3-6)

If you want to spot something in the noosphere, you would roll 1d10 and hope for 1-6. If you want to hide from something, you would roll 1d10 and hope for 7-10. The ranges can be changed during the game. If you are facing something really, really dangerous and want to hide, you could alter your ranges to Perception 1-2 : Stealth 4-10. Then you can change it back when the danger has passed.

The design goal is two-fold: 1) remind players that their characters are not physically in the noosphere, and 2) increase the strategic nature of normally static attributes.