Anansi Games LLC
Bones PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 11 January 2012 00:21

To paraphrase the glorious Madeline Kahn in the movie Clue, Characters should be like Kleenex: strong, soft and disposable.  One of the biggest problems with the Bildungsroman from the perspective of storytelling is the investment in each character by the players.  Assuming that a character is played for 100 hours and depending on how a player could charge out his time, a character that is played by a lawyer could be worth as much as a used car.  It is always sad when a good character dies, and it should be, but when a player puts seventy hours into a character, it is incredibly difficult to justify killing that investment on a bad die roll.

This has led to a number of safety valves for keeping characters alive, including a change in the social contract, in which it is expected that the GM will not include instant death and permanent death encounters, which were staples in many of the early Gygaxian modules in the early part of D&D history.  While this change is appropriate for characters that are effectively worth so much, and have such a huge emotional investment.

Other safety valves include an inflated health system, instant magical healing and resurrections.  In reality most people are going to go down with one hit from  a sword, are killed from falling from a horse and are permanently scarred from fire and acid.  Of course, by the same token, people survive falls from 30,000 feet and give an hour-long speech with a bullet in their chest.   It almost seems as if reality uses a broken health system as well.

Given that we are aiming for a low-magic high-adventure generic fantasy game, I think it only makes sense to use some of the same concepts, but I want a real sense of impending death to loom over the players.  My sense is that when a character is defeated in the story, he has the opportunity to play additional cards to mitigate his defeat, and this will go for PCs as well as NPCs this likely gives us another category of cards Defense cards.

For example, I am playing as the GM and I have taken control with my Warlord character.  He has played a Crushing Blow with his axe against the PC, Jim the Warrior, who at this point does not have a good response in his hand for a fight, he has a bunch of defense cards and some skill cards which don't apply.  The Warlord has no interest in Jim as a captive so as part of the Crushing Blow I narrate a vicious blow coming down on Jim's head and play my GM Card of AXE!!! to finish him off.  Jim plays his Glancing Blow defense, and takes control of the story narrating how the Warlord thought that he had killed him, but left him for dead with only a glancing blow on the side of his head.

This definitely cuts back on the handling time, increases the reality of death for the PCs and keeps with the flavor of the game.  With this in mind, I think it is time to really start building on this skeleton frame a real game.

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The Beginning of Mechanics PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 11 January 2012 00:20

While contemplating the mechanics for this game, I began to think of all of the different styles of mechanics that I've seen.  They run from completely free-form to being so rigid as to require time on a super-computer to determine the outcomes.  Everything from dice to cards to a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors has been used to determine random outcomes.  I think that is a real key, taking that level of comfort and certainty away from the player gives the game some element of risk.  It is the risk that makes the game part of an RPG interesting.

One of the things I really like about 4th Ed. D&D is the inclusion of the power cards.  I have been using power cards of various types for most of my role-playing career.  I am notoriously bad about having exactly the right power and not using it, so I made lists that were easy to read, and had all of the related material summated on the cards.  This made it easy for me to help the GM out, as I could explain the rules and even hand the text of the rule when I was about to do something really creative.

So I think this game will use randomized decks of cards which are related to the skills and powers that the characters have as well as cards simulating their flaws and weaknesses.  At the beginning of a story the cards will be shuffled and placed into the appropriate stacks.  I'm thinking that each character gets a certain number of cards in their  hand  based on their stats.  At any point when a player wants to take control of the story, he plays a card from the appropriate deck I'm thinking Skills, Combat, Magic right now and puts it on the top of the main play stack, and refreshes his hand.   He then takes over the story with the new element.

The neat thing about this type of give and take means that the GM will always have a ready supply of cards to introduce new monsters, mooks and traitors, just like in a classic Conan story, anyone could be a potential threat and everyone was looking to betray him.

We will play with this in more detail as we further develop the system and the stats, but it will help us to tailor the system to the mechanics.  I would never design a game like this for publication, but I don't have to publish hundreds of cards for this game because it is only a thought exercise!

Premise and Design Concept PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 11 January 2012 00:15

In April of 2001, Ron Edwards of the Forge wrote an article in which he described what he called the Fantasy Heartbreaker game. These games, he said, had some nugget of greatness buried in a collection of intense combat rules and following the tropes set in stone by D&D.

During my youth I had spent many hours editing and extensively houseruling the AD&D Second Edition rules published by TSR.  I really enjoyed the game, but it frequently left me with the feeling that I could do more.  I went back to the original D&D and First Edition AD&D books (also published by TSR) to try and build on the Second Edition Rules.  I tried incorporating aspects from other games I played, but always there was this nagging suspicion that I could do more, that the Rules As Written were incomplete.  The rules were strangely absent on how I should actually utilize Non Combat Proficiencies, and while I enjoy a good fight now and then, all of my favorite fantasy stories rarely had more than a handful of actual fights.

I eventually built an entirely new game that looked an awful lot like D&D, but wasn't really.  In the early nineties I took that a step further and wrote out a complete game that looked a lot less like D&D, but was, at its core, very much D&D--Races, weapons lists, armor lists, experience point growth.  I thought about publishing it, but by that point other games had come out that did essentially the same things.  These are the games that Ron Edwards refers to in his article.  Gamers like myself who thought, "This game is awesome, but it should be more complete."  Then Wizards of the Coast put together 3rd edition D&D, which would eventually be overhauled into the gargantuan game called three point five.  This essentially buried any hope I had of publishing my little game.  But now I am going to build a new game in this series of articles, which will basically serve as a bridge between now and when we release new Terror Thirteen material and other games, and build on the experience I had of writing my own fantasy heartbreaker.

With D&D now in its 8th or so incarnation, despite being called 4th edition, it is interesting to see how many of those innovations have eventually melded into the actual game.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 January 2012 00:17
Concepts and Precepts PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 11 January 2012 00:17

So first, the apology, this was supposed to go out on July 2, but got held up by Independence Day celebrations.

We have to ask ourselves two questions before designing this game:

What kinds of stories do we want to tell?

What will provide the tension in the conflicts that will be brought up?

Back when I played RPGs for 12 to 20 hours a week, I would have said that we needed to tell a Bildungsroman or coming-of-age story where the characters would start weak and develop over time, discovering their hidden pasts and powers.  Now, with significantly less time on my hands, I think it would be more interesting to tell a story about a group of powerful characters in a difficult situation, allowing for a more serial approach, where the characters remain very much the same every time we visit them, except for the influence of the stories that came before like the original Conan stories by Robert E. Howard.

Since I am writing this, and there are plenty of ways to tell coming-of-age stories including D&D I will try and develop a serialized approach to powerful characters.

The second question is more difficult to answer.  In traditional games this has been answered with combat, and with good reason the historical background of RPGs is tabletop wargaming it is the easiest type of conflict to write a cohesive rules-set for.    It is easy for us to give a character some arbitrary health system which when he runs out of that number he is incapacitated.  It is far more difficult for the players to visualize an arbitrary philosophical health system or conversation points which when exhausted leave the PC doing the bidding of a persuasive NPC.  While there is little innate difference in these things, Players feel that when they lose control of their characters actions that this is a great affront to the game code. 

If we look at traditional sword and sorcery books, the tension is provided, not by the combats that the characters enter into, despite being a major part of the story, because the characters are rarely in any real danger they are protected by  the protagonist's shield and are simply the greatest fighters in the world.  The real danger lies in treachery the characters are never certain who is on what side, and are frequently never truly aware of who (or what) the real enemy is until they have killed everyone.

I think that this could provide for a dramatic story that everyone could get behind, but it would limit the number of players available, in order to give them each enough active time to feel important.  It would probably work best with 2 to 4 players and a GM.  We could perhaps just as easily play without a GM, which would give the game an entirely different feel.  Due to the serial nature of the stories, though, I think we will develop a game with a GM and the ability to switch easily between one GM and another, so that one player is not burdened with that roll at all times (unless he chooses to be).

Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 January 2012 00:19
Partner Stores PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 11 January 2012 00:11

The following is a list of stores which are going to carry Terror Thirteen.

Check them out, as I'm certain that they are an excellent place for all of your gaming needs.

Gamers, Inc. Cuyahoga Falls, OH

Browser's Bookstore Corvallis, OR

Trump's Hobbies Corvallis, OR

The Source Comics & Games Minneapolis, MN

Our House Games Monroe, MI

Fantasy Knights Albany, OR

Matt's Cavalcade of Comics Corvallis, OR

Evolution Games Eugene, OR

Ancient Wonders Portland, OR

Rivals Fantasy Games Portland, OR

Noble Knight Games Jaynesville, WI