Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The duck’s alive and quacking

I went a long time without updating this blog, or my Patreon page. The last few months I mostly spent frantically translating Fate Worlds Vol. 1 to Italian for Dreamlord Press: a 300-page monster of an RPG book, and a job which left me with not much idle time on my hands. But finally the time has come to resume my various Platonic Duck Kitchen projects – of which I have many in progress, so many in fact that a new status update was long overdue!

Enter the Avenger (a.k.a. Entra il Vendicatore) has seen a lot of play over the last year. Originally released in the premiere issue of Worlds Without Master, it’s a fair assumption to call it my best known and most successful game. An Italian translation has been up on DriveThruRPG for a while, but hasn’t been selling – probably because of an utter lack of marketing antics on my part. This Italian edition is layed out for printing as a booklet and embellished with some additional artwork by Tazio Bettin. A similar layout for the original English text is in the works and almost done: my plan is to put it up for sale on a variety of digital stores and also to send it to my Patreon backers as a complimentary (free) update.

La casetta di marzapane (tentative English title: The Gingerbread House) has also seen quite a lot of play, though in Italian only. In case you’re reading about it for the first time, this is a short-story-as-a-game about the chance (?) meeting between some children and the ruler of their badly ruined land. My planned effort translating it to English (not as easy a task as I’d hoped) had to be delayed due to more urgent concerns; meanwhile, a number of players came up with suggestions for improving the game, including catching some bugs and textual quirks. Due to extremely tight integration between rules, thematic content and text, no change is trivial to implement – thus, I’m still in the process of sorting through the feedback and pondering the exact fixes to make. While I’m not yet sure whether I’ll release a revised Italian edition first, I want the first English release to be a fully revised one.

The so-called “manhunt game” (working title used to be “Wolf and Deer, Hound and Fox”, but I’m growing less and less enamored with it) is a whole new project I’ve been working on as a distraction in whatever little spare time I’ve had lately. I don’t have much on paper about it except notes, but I’ve been playing it a lot and it does create some kickass fiction! The cards-and-numbers based pacing mechanics still need some tweaking (and, thus, some more playtesting) before I can draft a text. Since the default backdrop for the game is swords & sorcery (as in Enter the Avenger) I’m considering submitting this game to Worlds Without Master, depending on how long the final text will turn out to be.

Awkward/L’imbarazzo is another out-of-the-blue new project! Quickly drafted out for a chamber-larping convention, it turned out to be one of my most successful designs to date, not to mention my first successful attempt at doing comedy. It’s a game to be played with your whole body rather than just with words: a hilarious Jeepform-like scenario (though structurally and mechanically simpler than a game such as Doubt, not to mention shorter) about the difficulties people of different gender experience in having a non-romantic, non-sexual friendship in a heteronormative society, as well as the different expectations younger and older people hold about life. Despite only existing as a bunch of scribbled notes, this scenario has been played multiple times, including with first-time role-players, and people other than myself have run it. I now look forward to writing a concise English-language manual for the game.

Lift Girl – La ragazza dell’ascensore, my (Italian) Game Chef 2013 entry about small & fractured stories crossing at at an elevator in a near-future high-rise shopping center, is one game I haven’t been making any progress with lately, but it’s next to done. It just needs a very minor rules-tweak or three (and a round of playtesting those tweaks) before I go into producing a new release, which I’d like to be either English-language or bilingual.

I haven’t made much of a progress on The Shackled Self, my game about a prince-turned-ascetic striving to achieve sainthood and the power to save humankind. The playtest I ran last year showed that my new dominoes-based mechanics for face-offs between the Prince and Temptation might be working, but overall the game is… way too hard on the players. My plan is to re-formulate all of the rules to fit on a set of well-designed handouts, as a set of “moves” players can perform (to borrow a useful piece of terminology from Apocalypse World). A mechanical overhaul is also required for pacing reasons, to make the game ran satisfactorily within a realistic timeframe. I suspect it will take me a while, though.

Passeggeri ("Passengers") is another project I made very little progress on. I'm aiming for a role-playing game playable anywhere, anytime, by as little as two people but also by larger groups, without carrying any books or other items around: as such, it requires *extreme* rules minimalism. What little work I've done on it was in the form of short playstorming sessions. The resource I most need, here, is lots of time I can afford to spend in testing, as I'm walking into mostly uncharted territory (figuratively as well).

No progress on Cast Down from Eden/I reietti di Eden, either. Much like the struggle it depicts, this urban-fantasy game of fallen angels and occult superheroes fighting against enemies almighty proved to be a really ambitious project. There’s something deeply personal to me to this game-idea, a deeper layer of meaning which, despite so many in-house iterations and playtests, still has a hard time emerging from the multiple layers of mechanical complexity and colorful action-y fiction. I’m currently happier with what I get out of my tighter, smaller-scope, more focused projects, while Cast Down from Eden now feels like an elusive, hard-to-win fight I can only make a comeback to after I get some more practice.

Then there’s a bunch of collaborative projects!

To Hunt Down the End begun as a swords & sorcery themed re-skin of Giovanni Micolucci’s Nomadic Hunter I wrote in English based on the Italian-language draft he showed me early this year. We meant to release it as a Vas Quas/Platonic Duck joint production, and I commissioned some artwork from artist Mik (who created the original title banner for Platonic Duck Kitchen, which also served as concept art for the logo), which turned out just as awesome as I hoped for. Unfortunately, I lagged behind in production schedule; meanwhile, Giovanni has made significant improvements to the original Nomadic Hunter, leading to a new and better prototype (again, in Italian). The exact fate of To Hunt Down the End, then, is yet to be determined: it would take me some more work to port some or all of the latest NH improvements into THDtE through translating and re-skinning, and more graphic design work is needed to produce a finished, playable game. But it can be done, indeed. Just like Nomadic Hunter, To Hunt Down the End is a hybrid board-game/role-playing game of wilderness crawling and monster-slaying which you can also play solo.

The Behemoth is a character playbook for  Vincent Baker’s ApocalypseWorld created by Tazio Bettin. I helped Tazio fine-tune his design and we’re most likely going to release it through Platonic Duck Kitchen, with gorgeous art by Tazio himself. I just need to do some editing of the text before we proceed to its final layout.

La casa sulla roccia (roughly, “The house built on stone”) is a wonderful, profound and moving “chamber” larp scenario by Barbara Fini: a day in the life of the inmates and staff of a facility for the mentally ill, deep in rural Southern Italy. By “chamber” larp I mean a small, self-contained live-action RPG scenario that can be set up and run with minimal costuming and props and very little prep, in a perfectly mundane location. This game currently exists as a set of Italian-language character sheets Barbara wrote, plus the oral wisdom I collected over a number of extremely successful runs – I’d like to eventually piece together an actual “manual” for hosting and running the scenario. What I’m now wondering is whether making an English translation of it would also be possible, or too much of the setting and general tone would be lost in translation on a non-Italian audience.

Settembre poi ci troverà (roughly, “September will come and find us”) is another “chamber” larp/Jeepform-like scenario, co-created by Barbara and me. Fresh out of our pen and yet to be playtested (it’s scheduled to premier at a chamber larping convention roughly a month from now), it combines features from both Barbara’s La casa sulla roccia and my own Awkward to tell a cross-generational story about short-lived summertime loves.

All of the above are “half-done” games: games for which either a significant body of text already exists, some playtesting already happened, or both. Releasing them all is only a matter of having enough spare time available – which ultimately boils down to having money on my hands: sponsor me by becoming my patron and make all of those role-playing games happen! “Board of advisors” level patrons also get a say in which ones ought to be finished first.

But there’s even more brewing! Game ideas which are still in a fluid state, but might gel into something playtest-able anytime soon. One is a game about witches as disgraced goddesses, and the weird process by which a majority or 50% segment of a populace is persecuted into effective minority status. Another one is the game of aggressive revenge against the powerful and its house-of-cards-like consequences on society I’ve briefly blogged about a long time ago – working title: “The Taller They Stand”. “Changing Speed” is instead my working title for a self-contained scenario in which I plan to exploit the tropes of 70s and 80s’ Japanese super-robot TV shows to do some hopelessly grim, as-angsty-as-you-can-get teen drama (and I might or might not work some Italian pop music into the mechanics).
Tree of Worlds, my tentative Everway remake, also belongs in this category because, well, I didn’t do much work on it yet. One design goal is I want to be able to employ the original Everway components, but I want those to be entirely optional too; one huge roadblock is that playtesting (or, heaven forbid, playstorming!) a long-form role-playing game is a logistical nightmare. Meanwhile, a friend requested a dungeon-crawling game out of me with some very specific features, and a design is slowly gelling around a quirky setting idea of mine: armed Illuminists standing against the literal forces of darkness in a nightmare city. The main challenge here is not to get sucked into making it “just” a tactical skirmish board-game.
Then there’s this hitch I need to scratch, to make something which might fit in with the OSR movement – something based on the “core technology” of 1970s-to-80s D&D. And, after spending six-months knee-deep in Fate Core, I guess I’ll need to do something with that as well (I love it that they made it open source).

Stay tuned and hear the duck quack!

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