Hello, Aaron from AnSR here. I just wanted to tell you about some changes we have going on here at A'n'SR -entertainments. Mainly this: we are now publishing games under the name AnSR Games. It is a simple change, but an important one. Let me explain.
Each year, A'n'SR -entertainments looks back at the goals we set and grades how we did. So... how was 2016? Let's see.
You are a dangerous, super-powered criminal. You have been put behind bars for your crimes. You are being given a chance for a better prison life if you do special missions for the prison Warden... and survive. Welcome to the Controlled Experiment, convict.
ConEx: Controlled Experiments is the latest roleplaying game from A'n'SR -entertainments. In the game, you take the role of super-powered bad guys doing good things against your will. Always watching you is the Warden of the prison. Always gnawing at you is a plan to escape the situation.
ConEx uses the new Details and Dots Modular Game System to power all the action in the game. It is a fast, rules-light RPG with narrative consequences for failure. All the rules for the game, as well as the setting, is in this core rule book. So, grab a twenty-sided die, a pencil, some note cards, some friends, and unleash your inner bad guy.
Aaron from A'n'SR here. I've been frustrated. I've been playing lots of RPG systems. I've been trying to find the perfect game system for the stories we like to tell. I've been subjecting my wife to multiple versions of her character as we figure out how each one works. We've had these great moments of "this is it; this one really works". Then, we figured out where it broke down or didn't work for what we were doing, and went looking for the next thing.
It's been frustrating... and good.
There are few things more frustrating than a puzzle you have a problem solving. Imagine a world without the interwebs and your really analytical friend to tell you how to solve the Rubik's Cube. You would pick it up, fiddle with it, think that you got somewhere, get confused, put it down, do another thing, pick it back up again, peel off a sticker or two, put it down, look for help, pick it up... and maybe quit.
That is kind of how the quest for making a new RPG has been going for us of late. We try something, don't like something about it, try another, try a pre-published game, come back to our design, go to something else, try again... you get the idea.
What We've Been Trying
For example, we tried a game system, but it ended up being a little too odd. Then, we tried Fate Core again. Then we remembered why it wouldn't work the game type we wanted to play, tried to modify it, still had the same problems and gave up on it. Then, we looked at more RPGs. And more RPGs. And even more RPGs.
Next, we brought out GURPS 4th edition. GURPS has a great system where you can do anything you want. We played a whole Angels in the Old West campaign with it. However, I don't know that I like the "roll under an attribute" mechanic since we are playing with terribly powerful beings in a very cinematic world. Plus, I feel like I'm cheating the system out of its genius by stripping out so many of the rules it has.
We went through another iteration of our own pre-made game... but things just fell flat in the execution. It is a frustrating little puzzle, to be honest.
So What Now?
Cortex Plus. We got a copy of the Cortex Plus Hacker's Guide, a few other books, and have started a campaign with it. The things we like about it are:
We are 3 adventures into it, and we are really finding the sweet spots with the game and using lots of sticky notes. Don't be surprised if a book comes out of all of our fiddling around with the rules. It has tons of potential.
There's more to come, but this is the journey in our year of experimentation. We'll have more as the summer flits on. In fact, we are way overdue in telling folks about the amazing Geekway to the West convention experience we had.
Each year, A'n'SR -entertainments makes some goals that we want to accomplish. We've had our meeting, talked about options, and have decided what we want to do.
Work on a New RPG Twist
We really want to make a co-operative story game something like a Choose-your-own-adventure book. We are in the process of drafting the first story up and figuring out how the mechanics work. Honestly, this is an experiment. It may get to playtest and die on the vine, but there is something there we want to explore and experiment with.
Get our Games on More Sites
The bulk of our games are cards or PDF books. We want to get them on a few more websites to try and spread the word. To that end, we are going to look at expanding our line into new areas and see what works.
Try a Bit of Marketing
Honestly, we are not a huge fan of social media. In fact, we're pretty poor at checking personal accounts. We want to find a way to get the word out about our game without relying on the big, social media sites. We have some ideas (tournaments, demos at conventions, freebies, sales, etc.,) that we are looking at trying. At worst, we will come up with a comprehensive plan of attack for our games in 2017.
Redo DiColumns (Optional)
We really want to make DiColumns over again. Really. It is a fun, 1 to 2 player game. It deserves a little make-over. Maybe this will be the year we do it.
At its core concept, 2016 is the year we plan to experiment with things. We are going to experiment with a new game types, places to sell them, and some new ideas in general.
Every year in October/November, A'n'SR -entertainments tries to come up with our overall plans and goals for the next year. Since our fiscal year is ending, it is time to see how we did on this year's goals. In short, we did pretty well, though some things moved around a bit.
Goal 1: Release 4 Angels – Michael's War expansions by the end of the year.
Result: Successful. We launched all of the expansions we had in the 2014 KickStarter live on TheGameCrafter, and even got Angels - Michael's War on DriveThruCards. We're not as impressed with the sales on DriveThruCards yet, but then again, we have not added all the expansions.
Goal 2: Complete work on the Angels Dice game, and possibly (optional) release it.
Result: Meh. This game has been worked on, worked over, and re-worked a lot. There are some confusing bits and some parts, but the game is not gelling like we want. We are hoping to get it back on track sooner than later, but RPGs have taken over our brains again.
Goal 3: Complete work on a solo-play Angels game.
Result: Mixed. Did I mention our brains switched to RPGs again this year? The bad news is, the solo Angels game did not get worked on. The good news is, we are retooling it for a new game line we are alpha-testing that mixes cards, dice, and RPG-elements together. So, this may see the light of day after all.
Goal 4: Get our full line of Angels card games and expansions on DriveThruCards.com.
Result: Not Successful. We had a lot of technical issues getting the base game on the site, to be quite honest. I believe the base game still shows a $30 price tag for the Print'n'Play version. As such, we are trying to get our personal process down before doing any more. We did, however, get Pyramids of Mars on the site. More on that later.
Goal 5: Get our full line of RPGs on TheGameCrafter.com.
Result: Not Successful. In the middle of the year, we began working on a 2nd edition of -U- the Game of Stories. We reasoned that if we did a 2nd edition, then the first edition would be depreciated or compete with the new one. So, we paused on this. Now, though, there is no -U- 2nd edition. There is roll5s RPG, which does not compete as much. We will put it back on for 2016, since there is not a conflict anymore.
Goal 6: Work on at least 1 new RPG game or supplement.
Result: Very Successful. This is were we spent our time and treasure this year. See, there was a contest at TheGameCrafter.com, and we wanted to enter it. What started as a refresh of -U- 2nd edition became roll5s RPG. And what started as a contest entry became a finalist in the contest. We really like roll5s RPG, and have some fun plans for it.
Goal 7: (Optional) Get all our RPG games in Print On Demand at various sites.
Result: Not Successful. Again, we really paused any RPG plans we had made in order to get an RPG ready for the contest at TheGameCrafter.com. This will likely be picked up next year.
(Optional) Make a new/deluxe version of DiColumns
Result: Not Successful (again). At some point this really will get done. It is a fun, light single-player game that non-gamers like playing. Who knows maybe a card version will sprout up. Either way, this is an optional goal this year and, because it has become a tradition, it will likely be an optional goal next year.
Other than the things we had set out to do, we also made some other achievements we had not planned.
Pyramids of Mars Re-released
The one that took the most time was re-doing our game Pyramids of Mars. It is a bluffing, betting, die-rolling game about Ancient Martians building pyramids in the capitol city. The main reason for the re-release (and reworking of the rules) was DriveThruCards. As we were working on putting Angels – Michael's War on DriveThruCards.com, we decided to try another game as a test. We picked Pyramids of Mars for that test. Problem was, it was not friendly to card-only play. It required blocks and dice. So, we reworked it to not need the cubes, and re-released it. It is a much better game, and now has the chance to be expanded. An unexpected win. Who knows, maybe Emperor of the World will get the same treatment.
RPG Designer Diary
While working on the new RPG, we decided to do an RPG Designer Diary o the website. So far it is 11 parts in and includes things like cover designs, what dice to use and random thoughts. We will continue the diary to explain some of the fun bits of roll5s RPG which was the final result of all the work done. This more-or-less-monthly endeavor has been fun.
Overall Score: C
The things left undone this year really hurt our score. Some of the end results were great (new RPG, a re-working of a game, a Designer Diary, etc.,) but they were off-script. As a side note, because we got derailed on things, sales were down a bit from last year. As we go into our planning for 2016, we will take all of this and the lessons learned to heart and work on a tighter plan for the future.
We are making a new role-playing game. At first we thought it was going to be a new version of -U- the Game of Stories. But now, it is something new altogether. So, what made us change it? Read on.
What Happened to -U- 2nd Edition?
We were in love with it. We were going to make a more complex version of our role-playing game -U- the Game of Stories. It was playing really well. Then... we had a chat. We wanted to make a game that anyone could pick up and play. Not just people familiar with RPGs or people with creative urges. But people who want to have a different kind of experience with friends. It actually dovetailed into our conversation about classes and races in RPGs. Why did other RPGs have this? How could we make this game easier to "get into" for non-gamers and non-creatives?
So,we changed it all. It was rash, and fast, and a complete honing down of what we were doing. And it worked. So... what were the changes? Let's compare.
The End Result
These were major changes, honestly. it was like a whole new game. And it really worked for us. It was fun coming up with the lists of things a character could be and what Strengths they would get from them. It was great being able to write an adventure idea down and all the encounters in less than an hour. Most of all, though, it felt so smooth when a player said, "I use my Miraculous Healing to help calm down the old shopkeeper", rolled some dice, and the story continued on without as much as a hiccup in the story narrative. All-in-all, the game did exactly what we wanted to do and did it faster than we were doing it. So... this is the new game: roll5s RPG.
The first roll5s RPG book is a finalist in a contest right now. Once we hear some of the great judge feedback on it, we will tweak it a little, release the official game on RPGNow.com, DriveThruRPG.com, and TheGameCrafter.com for sale. Until then, we'll start sharing our thoughts about the mechanics and decisions in our upcoming Designer Diaries.
We are making a new roleplaying game. In the process of doing so, we've had a few musings and ramblings that have lead us to make changes in the game. We thought we'd share some of them here.
Why Do Character Classes and Races Work?
In so many role-playing games, there are pre-defined character types. these usually come in the form of a character's race and chosen occupation. While we were working on our point-based, classes, do-what-you-want RPG system, we started thinking about why. Why do so many games use these character creation tricks? Well, there's lots of reasons.
The biggest one is that it makes it terribly easy to get into. Defining your character with a couple of words is huge. I am an elf barbarian tells me that you are tall, agile and brutish. There is an economy there that really can't be beat and helps players get into the game quicker. The other thing it does is let's players find an affinity to latch onto and be a part of. Players want to be a part of a clan, a bloodline, a faction, a color, a race, or class. Giving them the option gives them the chance to be part of something. Both the ease of getting into the game and defining yourself is half the battle for a character. So... classes, races, clans, factions, etc., are really great for removing the barrier of entry.
We keep coming back to what dice to use for our game. Again, and again, and again. In fact, we even found ourselves playing around with different dice for players and ones for Game Narrators. In the end, though, we really kept coming back to the question "what is the easiest to get into?" The answer: the 6-sided die. Everyone has them. You can get lots of them cheaply. Everyone is familiar with them.
Outside of dice, though, there is more to a game mechanic than rolling dice. We also started thinking about how stats on characters should be used to modify the dice. Should they add to some totals, should they mean more dice to roll? Do they let you reroll dice? There are so many options, really. You can break them down into a hierarchy of how much mental power (and thus complex) things are to understand to help find out what to do.
Honestly, it's a lot to think about, and most things have been done before.
Next time, we will discuss what all these meanderings did for our RPG... including changing the name.
A'n'SR -entertainments is making a new edition of our role-playing game, -U- the Game of Stories. As we do, we want to share some of (sometimes embarrassing) moments in the design. This week is the called "the time we ran an adventure and realized we don't run adventures that way!"
How it Was
So, when we first started writing adventures for the new -U- system, we thought about those great choose-your-path kind of books. The Game Narrator would read a block of text, pose a problem to the players, the players would react, and then (based on the outcome) the Game Narrator would move to the next Scene.
The pros of this method are:
The cons of a scripted adventure are:
There are probably more of both, but those are the big ones that really came out in our playtests. The moment where it hit home was at the Geekway to the West game convention.
First of all, if you have never been to Geekway to the West, it is a phenomenally fun and friendly game convention. It is geared very much towards playing games and having fun with friends, and had to cap attendance this year to 1300 people 2 months before the doors opened. Really great people. Really great convention.
We brought one of our adventures (the fantasy one) to the convention to playtest. While running it, the players did some things that changed a part of the story. I know, shock, the players did something not in the script. So, I was reading this page of text to them at the beginning of the next event per the written adventure, and I literally had to stop. The text of the script did not match, in any way, what had happened in the game. I was able to recover only by jumping into the comfortable space that game narrators get into when they improvise.
And that was the moment. That was where I realized that we had created something that was fun to write, but counter intuitive and broken for most narrators. If we were going to write a pick-your-path kind of book, it would be great. But this is role-playing, which is part improvisational acting, part rules, and part cooperative play.
We had a great adventure, and I got lots of great feedback (and some ideas), At the end of the day, though, I just realized that our adventure we wrote was not going to work. It was kind of heartbreaking, really. All that work. All those words... gone. So... we had to fix it.
So there we were with this great manuscript and a poor gaming experience. What did we do? Go back to the beginning. We analyzed how we really made our own adventures and what the best things were. We came up with some basics, and some conceits about what we like in our games.
Looking at all this, we completely rewrote our fantasy adventure. We thought about co-operative RPG game play (where everyone takes turns being a Game Narrator at one point), but that fell flat. Instead, we just concentrated on organizing adventures in chunks called Scenes with some possible Events that might happen in each Scene. Inside those Events we had a description (which could be read aloud, if the Game Narrator wants to), an action, some facts, and some possible next Events.
This worked much better. The flow of the story was kept inside the Scenes and moved through actionable Events. Cool character moments were available to the players and Game Narrators that the scripted version prohibited. We even put in possible Events for some interactions with the Game Narrator Characters that we felt really fleshed them out (like interrogating an ally that may or may not be a villain). All-in-all, the adventure was better and was written in less words. We are rewriting the Angels adventure/book now.
Next time, we talk about random thoughts we've had lately about RPGs and more.