Thursday, March 7, 2013

An open design self-challenge: Tree of Worlds, my Everway remake

The Shortest Month Longest Game Design Challenge includes a couple ingredients which inspired me (namely, “Tree” and “Fool”)… Not to create a wholly original game, though, but rather a remake: a remake of Jonathan Tweet’s Everway – which is something I actually had floating at the periphery of my mind since a while, but never in a major way.
My project doesn't comply with all of the requirements of the challenge, and I'm way past deadline anyway. I would like to make this into a leisurely, long-time project instead, and into a chance to experiment with a new (to me) design-to-writing relationship: similar to some OSR blogging practices, I will write down all of my ideas for this work-in-progress game/remake as blog posts, in no particular order. In a weird perversion of the name and spirit of the inspiring challenge, maybe it will take me a year or more to have a full “game” posted this way, but who cares?
As soon as I design even a small a fragment of the game I will post it here, not waiting for “the big picture” to coalesce — expect changes of mind, re-designs and do-overs, and especially so as I will eventually get some playtesting/playstorming done. Individual pieces, though, will have at least some usability for people who are already familiar with Everway, or so I hope.

Let’s begin with a working title: Tree of Worlds.

And here’s a bunch of broad-picture desiderata, in order to set a very general framework:
  • I want to make use of the original Everway materials, such as the Fortune Deck and (especially) Vision Cards. In fact, I want to draw my vision for this game, in terms of mood and content, directly from the imagery of the original cards – which have a characteristic vibe of their own. But…
  • I believe I need to make possession of such materials optional, not mandatory, in order to make Tree of Worlds play independent from the availability of a rare out-of-print boxed set from the 1990s (please!). The Fortune Deck can be replaced by a standard Tarot deck (I will attempt to make the two interchangeable… or, rather, to make my rules agnostic re: which fortune-telling cards you use). One can make one’s own Vision Cards by combining pictures with questions – whether they’re shaped as cards doesn’t affect game-play significantly.
  • While not actually participating in the contest, I have my eyes on the “Flexible Footprint” challenge. I’m envisioning a pretty “traditional” Master of Ceremonies role, nothing groundbreaking here, but with some sort of “troupe style” play. At a minimum, I want the MC role to rotate freely and/or regularly between players. Also, if off-game prep is necessary for play at all (and it probably will), I want to make it as light on the MC as possible: quick, simple, step-by-step, streamlined; and to share it between troupe members whenever feasible.
  • I fully expect Tree of Worlds to turn out visibly “crunchier” – that is, more mechanically specified – than the original Everway, wherever I believe this can benefit, and not hinder, gameplay. In a sense, this is just a function of evolving trends in table-top role-playing (so much has changed since the Nineties!), but on the other hand it’s also because I’m taking the broad toolkit which is Everway as the starting point for building something much more specific. It’s by specifying a more narrowly defined experience that I hope to truly make the game my own.

To be continued!


  1. Well, good luck! I started detailing a star sector for OSR-Inspired Stars Without Numbers RPG to break out my burnout state; so far, it is working.

    However, to give proper credits where these are due, I started my endeavour in reaction of this post:

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  3. I like this idea a lot, and I look forward to reading your additional musings on it. I have a soft spot in my heart for Everway, despite only ever having played it once.

  4. Ehi, this coming from the author of one of my favorite games (theoretically at least — I only enjoyed limited chances to play it because of a shortage of like-minded people), I'm pretty excited! Ganakagok was both a thought-provoking read and a thought-provoking experience for me: it made me re-evaluate Everway and tarot-based games completely and is *the* main influence behind my (also tarot-based) game-design-in-development, "Cast Down from Eden" (a.k.a. "I reietti di Eden").

  5. I look forwards to reading your game!