It’s a little over four months since I began work on the new core material. The end is now in sight, so it’s time for another quick update.

Read the previous development update here.

The current state of the work

This week I finished work on the detailed descriptions of the Powers. As I predicted in an earlier update, writing them all out has raised a few new issues, mainly around balancing, but remarkably fewer than it did during the first and second write-ups. I feel there are two things contributing to this:

  1. I resolved most balancing issues during the creation process by establishing a clear process for the creation of Powers and Spells; and
  2. Several years of playtesting have already exposed most balancing issues (as well as my personal pitfalls when coming up with Spells and Powers).

Additionally, I hope to get the rulebook in a place where it does not exceed 100,000 words, about 40,000 fewer words than the old books combined. Most of those words will be detailed descriptions of Powers, Spells, and Rituals; the core mechanics total to about 15,000 words. I'm pleased with that result.

Finally, I finished the examples. I managed to get the total down to 6 that I feel manage to clearly convey the core rules of the game.

Group Powers

One of the issues I came across while rewriting the Powers were the Group rewards. On the Stage, players get Character points as individual rewards and Group points as a reward for group performance. Players use Group points to purchase Group powers, which convey bonuses to collaborative performance.

Easy, right? Not really.

First off, the Stage (like so many games out there) is focused on the individual player. Yes, players are part of a group and must collaborate to achieve their goals (the Stage can be pretty unforgiving if they don’t), but parties of characters are built from the individual level up, not the other way around.

Second, Group rewards require a mechanic of their own, because they raise questions that are not relevant for the rest of the game: what is a ‘group’? What happens when a member leaves the group or passes away? What happens when a new member is introduced? How to decide what Group rewards to give? When should group performance be rewarded and when shouldn’t it? I have never managed to lift the group rules above the level of “distracting”. Maybe that’s because of my limitations as a game developer, but the point of this exercise is and always has been to make a fun and good game. To achieve that, whatever is not necessary must be omitted.

Third (and following from the previous points), Group rewards have always felt as if they were an add-on to the main game, as if they were never really part of it all. Incidentally, I have long felt this way about magic, too, and only in the new iteration have managed bring magic into the core game (although the proof of the pudding is in the eating). That took a lot of hard work--work I’m not willing to put in for a game mechanic that deviates from the principles of the game.

So they’re going.

On the plus side, I have managed to salvage all Group powers and convert them to individual powers. Characters can acquire these with regular Character points and improve collaboration or profit from an ally’s expertise in a way that stays true to the game’s core concept. I am looking forward to testing these new Powers.

What remains?

First, I need to write up the detailed descriptions of the Spells. I have finished templates for the Spells, so this should be more of a filling-in-the-blanks exercise than anything else (although I'm sure some issues will come up). After that, I’ll have to finish the Rituals. This may still be some work, as I’m still playing around with several different mechanics.

When that’s done, I will finalize the tables. This was a lot of work for the previous iterations and since I can’t reuse most of that material (due to the changes in mechanics), I’ll have to start from scratch for most of them. That’s fine, but it’s going to take a while.

But when that’s done, it’s done; I’ll move to editing and--finally--proofreading.

Questions, love, hate, suggestions? Let me know--here!

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