Gaming Goals for the New Year

People watching fireworks

Welcome to the New Year!

As a young business, we’re constantly making, evaluating, and updating our goals, and the New Year is as good a time as any to reflect on our goals and our methods.

2015 RPG Development Accomplishments

Last year was a great year for Varza.  Legendary RPG has been in the making for 3 years, but 2015 was the year we kicked into high gear:

  • We play tested Legendary extensively with friends and strangers, in homes and at conventions, with veteran RPG players and novices
  • We went through 3 major iterations of the rules covering pretty much all the stats
  • We went through 2 iterations of a character sheet that not only helps you keep track of points spent, but provides you with all of the stat descriptions inside the app itself
  • We started Varza games and built our website
  • Talking with artists and illustrators
  • Our Facebook community started growing by hundreds per week

2015 Learning

We’ve also met several of our goals for learning and improving.

  • Connecting with other RPG designers and publishers at conventions and on social media
  • Reading The Willpower Instinct – love this book on boosting productivity!  Some take aways: the power of starting small daily goals rather than starting big, the importance of key habits like getting sufficient sleep, exercise, and meditation, and the important distinctions between anticipating rewards and actually receiving them.
  • Reading Hamlet’s Hitpoints – a fascinating, scene based analysis of what keeps an audience engaged in 3 classic tales.  Take aways: some ideas for a story planning app for game masters!
  • Organizing our goals and tasks with Trello

2016 RPG Development Goals

We’ve got ambitious goals for the next year to keep up our momentum:

  • Release an app called ‘The Deal’ based on a Legendary-lite rules system.  The Deal is designed to be played from character creation to finish in a couple of hours, and make it easy for new roleplayers and game masters to try out roleplaying
  • Updating the Legendary RPG rules, including streamlining the customization of powers
  • Prepping for a Legendary RPG Kickstarter mid-year, and for publishing the Legendary RPG core book!

Just like a Kickstarter, we’ve got a few stretch goals, including more app development:

  • Improvements to the character app that make playing easier: better hints and guides for play, a stat-aware, in-app die roller, quick total armor and attack stats
  • App for play, allow the host (and optionally players) quick access to other player’s stats and status
  • App to help game masters plan compelling stories and manage game resources

2016 Learning Goals

We’re still forming our learning goals for the year! Here are a few ideas:

  • Interviews with RPG designers, publishers, and artists we admire
  • Perusing the usual suspects in the productivity book lists. Favorites, anyone?
  • Creating an combined RSS feed of our favorite RPG bloggers (like The Angry GM)

Play-testing + Feedback from the Pacificon

Suzerain Light Character Sheet

Pacificon was tremendously fun.  Of course, a huge highlight was play testing Legendary with perfect strangers and getting some great, useful feedback on the game.  We played almost to the very end of the allotted 7 hours, and we acquired another player half-way through.  I took that as probably the best feedback of all: the players enjoyed it enough to invite another player.

The scenario was a spoof of the teen monster drama generally, specifically Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the TV series).  There were five archetypal characters including the Chosen One, the Mentor, the Rival, the Goofy Best Friend, and the Rebel, and the scenario allowed for any of the characters.  The players decided not to play with the Chosen One (a Buffy-esque lacrosse player / proto-werewolf who excelled at smashing things), and that the group had already bonded over defeating a plant monster / Botany teacher previously.  At the start of the game, characters discover a journal detailing a series of strange events from 70 years ending in the burning down of their high school—events which seem about to repeat themselves.  After some initial research and skirmishes, another player joined as the Chosen One, and played angsty, self-absorbed teen to the hilt (explaining why the group was only too happy to start their investigation without her).  A fantastic game was had by all.

The players feed back on the system:

  • The game felt “rules light” in that it allowed for a focus on the story, rather than resolving complex mechanics.
  • Players enjoyed being able to choose what kind of negative consequence their character received using their powers.
  • There were no “hero points”, i.e., there was no mechanic for players to have a bonus to important roles, ensuring success and avoiding catastrophe at key moments.  However, my approach to incorporating disastrous failures actually worked well for the story (instead of maiming or killing the characters, they ended up with a very inconvenient plot twist).  So the catastrophe made the game more exciting.
  • Switching from a simple 1d20 (which I was experimenting with) back to 2d10 will reduce the likelihood of critical rolls, putting a little more emphasis on character skill and putting a little more control of outcomes into the hands of the characters.

The feedback on the system was really positive overall.  Players also gave me some great feedback on how to demo a new game at a convention:

  1. Get character art for each character in the game
  2. Print a short description / summary of powers for each of the character
  3. One thing I did well was having set characters, but getting to choose the consequences of powers felt like a nice way to personalize the character some without having to take the time to build-out completely custom characters.

I actually got a great example of all the above three points when Miles Kantir demoed a fast and furious version of Suzerain.  I ran into Miles picking up a copy of Suzerain and discussing with Three Sages Games how they found and published it.  Miles offered to run a game whenever I had a free moment.  I told him I was free then, and with only 10 minutes of prep, Miles ran a lightning-fast, one-hour light version of the RPG.  The game had a highly enjoyable, Gaimanesque multiverse feel to it.  Miles gave each player their pick of pre-set characters—but each character was a representative of a pantheon of the player’s choosing (point #3).  Each character came with stunning art (point #1) and short overview of their strengths and weaknesses (point #2, pictured above).  On top of that, Miles had replaced each die roll with drawing from a deck of numbered cards, which made it a lot easier for everyone to see the result.  Lastly, Miles left each player with an awesome art print.  Pretty slick!

In addition to the above, I got some great advice on how to run a Kickstarter campaign from a panel of successful game designers & publishers.  More on that in the next post!