Archive for January, 2007

Being Diplomatic

January 25, 2007

When playing a game with three or more players, you have to consider more than just the mechanics of the game itself. You need to concern yourself with the diplomatic situation.

Whenever you make a decision in a multiplayer game, it is likely that you will be disadvantaging the other players, and some decisions can create greater or lesser disadvantages for different opponents.

Deciding who you disadvantage most or least will probably win you some friends or enemies in the game, which can alter those players’ decisions towards you later in the game. I’ve found that very few people can maintain a logical and detached style of play when a decision goes against them, in future they will act irrationally, looking to cause harm to the prospects of their new enemy, even to the point where it harms their own chances of winning.

So to succeed at multiplayer games, you have to master the diplomatic game as well as the mechanics of the game at hand. Offer alliances as required, make friends and reduce the number of enemies you create. You must try not to become a target of others enmity until you can be sure you hold a strong enough position to ignore it.

Learn the particular foibles of your regular play group, and work them to your advantage. Some players will hold a grudge, don’t give them a chance to get one in the first place. Some players will be loyal allies and some won’t. Learn who will be loyal, and seek alliances there rather than in less reliable quarters.

Regarding game design, you have a choice of how much player interaction you want to include in the game. The more interaction included, the more potential for diplomacy amongst your players. If players must compete for scarce resources, then this will increase the required diplomacy. If players must take actions together, then the opportunities for diplomacy will increase.

Any multiplayer game must have opportunities for diplomatic maneouvers, I think that you will generally seek a middle ground for providing these opportunities, too many and the game will take forever to play, as the players discuss their options all day. Too few, and the players may as well be playing solitare. Striking the balance somewhere in the middle is key, but finding the particular level you require will depend a lot on the game you are creating.

The diplomatic opportunities are important enough to consider as a key feature in your game design, almost with the initial idea, and certainly very early in your game process.

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The Gravedigger

January 23, 2007

The Gravedigger, another new character for your DnD games, this time I’ve provided a fairly blank slate, he’s an adventure hook rather than the adventure itself.

Copyright and My Games

January 19, 2007

When I write a game, I release it on my website, it’s free for everyone to download and play, and I only ask for payment if you enjoyed playing it. I’ve taken on this model because I’ve purchased a few games over the years that I didn’t really enjoy, felt like I’d wasted the money, and knew I couldn’t go and get a refund purely because I didn’t get on with it.

If you download my game, I am happy for you to create your own playing pieces rather than those I supply, and even modify the rules. I’d rather you didn’t republish your modifications unless you credit me, and whilst I’d love the help of a professional artist or two to up the quality of my game components, I really want you to ask first before you create a professionally printed copy of my game.

If you ask, I will probably say yes. My overriding priority is to create games that people want to play, and if people want to go to the effort of printing a game I have created, I really view that a very good thing.

I’m sure that there is some sort of Creative Commons licence that will cover this usage deal, but I hope that stating it every so often will do.

If you do take my work without asking, and use it for non-personal purposes, I will be upset. As I said above, just ask politely and I’ll probably say you can use it

Some games and scenarios I have released build upon the Intellectual Property of others. I hope that where this has been done, I have fully credited that fact, and also that I am only seeking an income from those creations that are mine to take money from (My Countdown game and Necromunda scenarios are examples of this) .

Changing the Rules

January 11, 2007

You’ve spent weeks or months carefully writing and crafting your rules, creating components, printing and packaging, and you game has finally been released to the world.

You ran through the rules countless times yourself, correcting, editing and formatting them until they were perfect. You gave them to playtesters to read through and play the game from, and you gave them feedback, and updated the rules where necessary.

However, the game has been in the hands of the wider gaming public for a few months. They have some questions (some of which are frequently asked) about grey areas in the game rules that you just didn’t see. Worse than that, it turns out that some of the rules in the final printed version are just plain wrong.

What do you do?

Once a game has been released for a while, it tends to pick up a set of errata and frequently asked questions. These changes tend to cause confusion within the player base, simply because the updates are not evenly distributed to all people who have played or purchased the game.

If a player buys a game, then they have the rules, generally, they will play the game according to the rules as best they can, and make a decision one way or another about any of the grey areas in the rules. Henceforth, they will use this interpretation, and happily get on with the game. If the creators of the game release rule clarifications, then they won’t get to all players of the game. So, you’ll start playing a game, try and make a move, and someone will whip out a badly printed copy of the latest FAQ, that bans that move. Suddenly something you’ve been doing for months will be forbidden, and the manner of the change might not be perfectly handled, leading to resentment, and destroying the friendly atmosphere of the game.

This only happens if rules updates are released, so you could avoid this situation by not providing these updates. Some rules issues are so great thatthey need to be changed, to make the game play correctly. All the playtesting in the world can miss something vital that must be fixed to make the game work.

You need to consider a way of providing updates that will ensure they are assimilated by the gaming community as far as possible. I have a few thoughts, but I doubt there is a full solution

  • Keep the number of updates to a minimum, and release them rarely. This should allow them to spread through the gaming community without becoming confused with newer updates.
  • Foster a culture within your gaming community of ensuring that everyone is aware of which updates and rules will or won’t be used before they start playing.
  • Keep all of your updates in one place. Ideally, roll them into a single document, that is easily downloadable
  • If at all possible, provide a fully up-to-date rulebook for download, which highlights any changes from the original.
  • If you change or clarify something, do your best not to change it again, switching back and forth leads only to confusion.

The Jeweller

January 11, 2007

Another new character suitable for use in DnD (or other role-playing games, but he’s only got statistics for DnD). The Jeweller, someone to allow your PCs to fence their ill gotten gains, and maybe a useful plot hook for an adventure or two.

I’menjoying developing these characters, they are quite small and self contained, a lot simpler than a full board game. I’ve also worked out a fairly useful template to use when typing up my notes, quite a scary percentage of the development time consists of typing handwritten notes into electronic form, and then editing and formatting them for various display types and formats. I can take a DnD character I’ve written and have him online in less than an hour, which is a small enough chunk of time to find easily in an evening.

Expect more of these characters in the next few weeks, then I’m going to try and find time to work on a couple of other nebulous ideas I started over the Christmas break.

DnD character

January 5, 2007

Continuing my occasional release of DnD related items, I’ve written a character for inclusion in your campaigns. Montgomery Jack is a big game hunter, suitable for inclusion as an ally or adversary for your character party.