Posts Tagged ‘CIC’

Oh dear. Has it really been a year since my last project update? But I haven’t got anywhere with those projects!! (And I notice I’m even later posting the “new year” update this year, too.)


Well, anyway, here are the projects I’m currently working on – for very loose definitions of “currently” and “working”. In fact, better: Here are the projects I expect to be disappointed about when I come to next year’s project update post.


This is the current top-of-my-list project. Intrigue and backstabbing among fantasy noble classes. (Three points for guessing which TV show sparked this idea.) In particular I’ve noticed a bit of a trend in indie RPG resolution systems to declare intentions up-front (to greater or lesser degrees of explicitness) and I think this doesn’t work for characters full of secret agendas. I’m wondering if I can design a resolution system that doesn’t require that. My current draft is based on a bribery model, where players offer each other tokens (of some value TBD) to persuade each other to accept the statements they’re making.


This one (character drama under a military sci-fi veneer – think BSG) hasn’t got much further since last year’s post. I’ve laid out an initial draft of the stats and basic moves, and I’ve got some good notes on character generation, particularly about playing multiple characters – which will be a crucial part of the game, I think. However, since it’s based on Apocalypse World, it requires an awful lot of writing up the moves associated with different character options – and I don’t feel I’m learning as much from that as I am from writing a game from scratch, so it’s taken something of a back seat.

Scary Monsters And Super Creeps

After reading Ron Edwards’ “Setting And Emergent Stories” essay (link is a PDF), I thought this game might be a good one to try it out on. I basically want to take the Unknown Armies setting (magic and horror, but very human, in contemporary urban setting), hack out the silly bits and hack in some more homegrown stuff, and then write mechanics for it to drive the story from the setting as described in that essay. (Edwards even quotes it as an example of a setting which would benefit from such treatment.) I’ve got some mechanics for specifying the setting, which I’m pleased with so far – but again this is kinda on a backburner for now.


And similarly, I reckon the Battletech universe has some cool thematic stuff going on which could be used in a setting-driven emergent-story game – so I might give that a try as well. I haven’t looked at this much yet, but I do know that mech battles will be fought using Mobile Frame Zero :-D

Escape From Nightmare City

Unlike everything else above, this is specifically a one-shot game. I’m trying to provide a good automated Antagonist – i.e. one which runs itself using mechanics and doesn’t require a player to “GM”. I want all the players to be playing protagonists, trying to escape the pick-your-dystopia Nightmare City, and have the game itself present good dramatic challenges. (So far I’m using a deck of cards for the Antagonist rules.) Obviously the details of any challenge will need to be fleshed out by the real human minds at the table, but I’m wondering whether the structure can be handled automatically.

Until next year…

Well, that’s all the stuff that has real work done on it (however minimal) and concrete design goals / questions to answer. A few other pieces which are just scribbled notes:

  • Tales of Suburbia: some kind of supernatural mystery game set in a leafy suburb. Just flavour so far, really.
  • Retinue: the characters play the henchpeople of the super-powerful ruling class. What stories do these normally-overlooked characters make?
  • The Watch: distrusted protectors of a dark fantasy world. This trope has come up a lot recently, but I wonder how interesting character dramas work when you operate at the edge of civilisation.

Let’s hope I can make a bit more progress this year! In particular I’m going on a roleplay holiday in Spring, and it’d be great if I could take a game along to playtest… :-S

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned a game idea I had, provisionally titled “CIC”. It’s inspired by Battlestar Galactica and Mass Effect, among other things – military sci-fi in flavour, but primarily about very real and very flawed people in positions of power and under a lot of pressure.

Back then I said that I might use Apocalypse World as a model, primarily because (a) its mechanics enforce a “nothing’s ever straightforward” narrative pattern that fits perfectly with the source material, and (b) I really like it.

And indeed, as I’ve started actually thinking about the design, I’ve decided that at least for the prototype, it will essentially be an Apocalypse World hack. That’ll give me enough framework to get started, and once I have something to test, I can adjust and move a bit away from AW if I want to.

(As it happens, there’s already an AW hack for BSG, by Sean Nittner. Sean was kind enough to let me see an early draft he was working on, and it looked excellent – but a little too BSG-specific for what I’m wanting to do here. He’s updated it a lot since that draft, though, and I really need to go and catch up with the developments.)

Anyway, after a whole bunch of writing, editing, re-thinking and procrastinating, here are the high-level basics so far. It’s not yet a full prototype, but it’s a start.

Basic Moves & Stats

These essentially go hand-in-hand. Once you know what moves people are going to make, you can group them into associated blocks and have a stat powering each one. So I started by listing all the things I’d want characters to be able to do – not literally everything, you understand, but all the things that should be dramatically important, i.e. the things the system should focus on. I came up with a whole bunch of moves, far more than would be usable, but I combined some and removed some and have whittled it down to:

  • Command
    • Tell someone “or else…”
    • Drive a hard bargain
  • Charm
    • Promise someone something
    • Bluff, lie or misdirect
  • Fight
    • Make a daring attack (physical or social!)
  • Grit
    • Remain calm under pressure
  • Tactics
    • Control a situation
    • Read a situation
  • Mystic
    • See visions
    • Get a bad feeling about this
  • Hx (as per the AW stat)
    • Read a person

That’s still a few more than I’d like, but I’ll run some playtests and see how I might be able to cut the list down. There are also some obvious things missing – e.g. the first move I came up with, “Give someone an order they don’t like” – but they’ll come later as part of the character-specific moves.

I’ll go into more detail on these in future posts, or maybe just by releasing the damn game :-) There’ll also be a separate set of moves for battles – along the lines of the battle moves in AW, but very slightly more detailed, and in this game they won’t be optional. (Those rules are right for AW, but I think for a military game the battles need to have more support for driving the story. I may be wrong! We’ll see.)

Character Creation

To me, the unique playbooks of Apocalypse World didn’t fit with the source material. I decided to go with a more modular approach, building stuff in from a few different lists to construct a full character. So, characters will have:

  • Area of Operations: Senior Military, Junior Military, Tech, Political, Religious, Scientific, etc.
  • Position: this is the official position in the fictional social structure – President, Aide, Chief Scientist, Admiral, XO, CAG, Priest, etc. Available Positions obviously depend on the chosen Area of Operations.
  • Role: this is the persona of your character – something that’s only identifiable outside of the fiction, unlike Position which is an in-fiction concept. Things like Hotshot, Prophet, Troublemaker, Agitator, Paragon, etc. Needs a better name, I think.
  • Virtues & Flaws – just to add a little definition to your character. How does your President/Prophet behave? How does your Admiral/Paragon come across?

These choices will give the character their stat adjustments, character-specific moves and Hx setup details. The top three at least will be changeable via the character development mechanics – e.g. becoming a Prophet when previously you were a Troublemaker.


For this game to work well, I think it needs quite a big cast of characters. One of the key things to focus on is the inter-relationship between the different types of power – essentially the different Areas of Operations above – and there need to be enough characters than we can examine interactions both within and between those groups. As a result, I think the game will ask players to play more than one character (*gasp*).

Each player will have a handful of characters, and indeed the GM’s (or MC’s, in Apocalypse World terms) characters will be limited only to supporting cast – pretty much anyone who’s going to be significant in the story should be played by a non-MC player. (There may be exceptions for characters on other “sides”, but they won’t be the focus of play anyway.) The MC’s job will be to put pressure on if needed, but largely the story will come out of the interactions among these many protagonists. Note this also means everyone will have Hx (which is a PC-only stat) with all other significant characters, which is why Hx for Read Person (way above) is hopefully not as unusable as it initially appears.

Action Stations!

So those are the first steps. More in subsequent posts, but probably not until I’ve put up some stuff about the other games I’m working on… :-) As ever, if anything catches your interest and you want to hear more, let me know!

Alright, enough theory. During my blogging hiatus a few tiny ideas have bubbled up in the cauldron of my brain, and some of them might turn into actual games. I thought I’d post them here in case anyone’s curious or has any thoughts to add.

These are all in very early stages of development – most are just nagging little thoughts that might never make the leap to being a real project. I’ve certainly no idea yet what insights they might show. But here they are.


This is the one I’ve thought about the most; a game that portrays the kind of military sci-fi seen in stuff like Battlestar Galactica, the Mass Effect series, some bits of Star Wars, maybe even a touch of Firefly. The stuff where there’s this big military operation going on, with all its tactics and plans and gunfire and “take cover!”, but what actually matters is the relationships and interactions between the people involved. (Alright that doesn’t matter that much in Mass Effect, but they’re trying.)

I think Apocalypse World will be a good model for this – it’s nice and simple, and its partial success rules fit perfectly with the “nothing ever goes smoothly” feel that is so prominent in the source material. With that in mind, I’ve adopted a “moves”-based pattern like AW, and I’ve started listing the moves I’m going to want for this game. In keeping with the military theme, I’ll probably need a slightly more detailed combat system than AW – but hopefully not too much so.


In my notes this game is literally no more than that single word: “Horde”. I guess it must have been just after I watched 28 Days Later for the first time (I know) over Christmas.

I think what I’m interested in here is mechanics that really make a story out of a zombie apocalypse. Can I make an endless sea of repetitive enemies into an engaging and ongoing plot? I guess I’ll have to look to films like that for my inspiration – if they can make a story out of it, then I’ll bet it’s possible to make a game that makes those stories.


I came across Carl Jung’s concept of “the shadow” recently. Very (very!) roughly, the theory is that shortcomings and instincts that we consciously repress from our personalities linger in a “shadow” in our unconscious mind. This got me thinking.

I’ve barely read anything about it (yet), and the game is by no means meant to be an accurate representation of the theory, but I did think it would be interesting to have two different players playing different aspects of the same character – kind of like Sorcerer but where the demon is played by another player, not the GM. Obviously this could easily get frustrating; it might not make a workable game at all.

Scary Monsters and Super Creeps

Some roleplaying games leave you tingling, walking home after sessions still immersed in the fiction you’ve been creating. The games that have done this for me most consistently have been those in contemporary horror settings where the GM has succeeded in producing a real sense of menace lurking round every corner.

… And I’d like to try my hand. The biggest challenge will be writing a system that actively contributes to the evil-is-everywhere mood. No clunky dice pools or sanity checks to get in the way here, please – just simple mechanics that allow the horror to emerge through play rather than being rated on a sheet. I’m quite intrigued by the Unknown Armies setting; while bits of it were absurd, a lot of it was interesting and its flavour text was often really sinister. So I’ll look at that for inspiration.

From little acorns…

So there’s a handful. There are a few other mini-ideas rattling around but until they’re a little clearer this lot will do. I’ve done a bit of work on CIC already, so more on that in future posts. Meanwhile, do drop me a comment if anything piques your interest.