Sunday, March 12, 2017

Playtest Report: Get Ready 2 Rock in the frozen north

I had a great session of Get Ready 2 Rock today at Breakout Con in Toronto. (Also a new logo, courtesy of Cynthia Lee.) The players were Sleeping Ginger, a Gwar-esque rock band from far northern Canada. Members of the band were Ricky J-Shot (The Cute One, bass), Sir Clemens (The Moody One, drums), Drax Smith (The Ringer, keytar), Widowmaker (The New One, pan flute), and Ed (The Forgettable One, cowbell).

The band was traveling by dogsled to a big music festival in Fairbanks, Alaska. They stopped for the night at a Canada's Greatest Motel location in the remote not-even-a-village of McConnell's Crossing. The whole band had to share a single room because the rest of the motel had been reserved by their rivals, Blond Riot, who soon arrived in their reindeer-drawn sleigh.

Blond Riot is only "pretty good," though that makes them better and more popular than Sleeping Ginger. Ed overheard Blond Riot's roadies grousing about how the band acquired fancy $8000 amps, but isn't good enough to hear the difference between that and lower-quality $4000 amps. Sleeping Ginger hatched a plot to trade the roadies their lower-quality amps plus $4000 to get the better amps from Blond Riot. But first they needed to get the money, since between them they only had $200.

Ricky used his charm to convince Marlene, the receptionist at the motel, to call corporate HQ and make a deal that Sleeping Ginger would write a version of one of its songs that was about the motel chain and play it on stage, in exchange for $3800. Meanwhile, Drax and Sir Clemens called a mysterious phone number they found written in the hotel attractions guide to arrange a drug deal with "Randy," who wanted to meet them at the old dock on Black Lake. Though Sir Clemens' drug habit breaks the heart of his father (and the band's manager) Cecil, the two set off into the dark woods to meet Randy. After performing a wild rock'n'roll stunt that left Drax up to his waist in cold water, Randy agreed to sell them $1000 worth of Extasy for only $100. On their way back to the motel, the band members ran into a couple members of Blond Riot, who were also aiming to score some drugs from Randy. Randy -- who had sold his entire stash to Drax and Sir Clemens -- used his satellite phone to call the police. Luckily the members of Sleeping Ginger were able to hide their drugs in a hollow tree, and the police didn't find anything on them. The members of Blond Riot and Randy hitched a ride back to town with the police. When Drax and Sir Clemens got back, they broke the door handle on one of the Blond Riot rooms, to delay them in the morning.

The next morning, Sleeping Ginger headed out on the road. Around midday, they reached the border checkpoint. Fearing that they would be caught bringing drugs into the USA, the band exploited their celebrity to get Charles the border guard -- a huge Sleeping Ginger fan -- to just wave them on through. That night, Sleeping Ginger had to camp at a National Forest since there were no motels in this remote area of Alaska. And wouldn't you know it, Blond Riot arrived at the same campground hours later. Since the members of Blond Riot were clearly frazzled from their day's adventures, they were willing to buy the extasy for $1500. While Blond Riot lay in their tent getting high, Sleeping Ginger decided to prank them by building a bunch of threatening snowmen around their tent.

The next day the band arrived in Fairbanks. After checking in at the festival HQ, Ricky and Widowmaker headed to a local coffee shop to meet Heather, the head of advertising and PR for Canada's Greatest Motels. While waiting for Heather, they were met by Charles. He told them that he had been fired from his job as a border guard for letting them through without checking their passports or inspecting their vehicle. Border Patrol was now on the hunt for Sleeping Ginger. Moreover, the Forest Service was also after them, because to make their snowmen they had pulled branches off of an endangered tree.

Meanwhile, Drax and Sir Clemens decided to try to sabotage their amps, so that when they traded them to Blond Riot, they would sound bad. However, they mostly succeeded in breaking the amps and electrocuting themselves. They took the amps to a local repair shop, and paid a premium to get them repaired quickly. Then they made their deal with the roadies for Blond Riot, swapping amps along with $4000.

Charles helped the band get in touch with his former supervisor, Officer Ramirez. She didn't buy the band's excuse that, coming from a remote part of Canada, they didn't know that you had to show your passport to enter the US. However, she told them that if they played a song about the importance of conserving endangered species, the Forest Service might both forgive their damage to the tree, and sponsor their application for a visa so that they could be in the country legally*.

The next day, Sleeping Ginger had their big show. Not only did they perform a brilliant song for the Forest Service, they also held up their end of the bargain with Canada's Greatest Motels, and won over a bunch of Blond Riot fans.

*Yes, I know this is not how US immigration law works.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Laser Kittens is here!

At long last, Laser Kittens is here! If you backed us on Kickstarter, we hope you love the book. If you missed the Kickstarter, you can order a PDF through DriveThruRPG. The physical book, as well as the beautiful Kitten Cards designed by Rori de Rien, will debut at the IGDN booth at GenCon this coming week. After GenCon, we'll make the physical books and cards available through our website. Pew pew pew!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Glittercats at Origins!

Glittercats Fine Amusements will be putting in an appearance at the Origins Game Fair in Columbus, OH next week. We have three scheduled games of Laser Kittens in the Hyatt Harrison room, as part of the Indie Game Developer Network:
  • Thursday 4-6 pm
  • Friday 4-6 pm
  • Saturday 12-2 pm

We also have a slot at Indie Games on Demand in the Hyatt Fairfield room, starting at 9 am on Saturday.
Laser Kittens won't be quite ready to sell at the dealer's hall at Origins, but you can preorder it through Backerkit if you missed our Kickstarter. We'll have our other two games, Bunny Money Gunny and The Fool's Journey, for sale, alongside a bunch of other awesome games at the Indie Game Developer Network booth. Come on by!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Laser Kittens is live on Kickstarter!

Laser Kittens, a game of tiny kittens growing up and learning to control their lasers, is live on Kickstarter. In Laser Kittens, you'll play kittens being fostered at the Knoll St School for Wayward Kittens, a house where humans take in orphaned and abandoned kittens and take care of them until they're ready to find their Forever Homes. You'll learn important lessons from your adult cat professors, such as how to control your laser -- a special superpower that humans don't know about. Use your laser to summon a herd of emus to your aid, or teleport all of the catnip into the basement, or to erase a bad human from history.

Laser Kittens is a cooperative storytelling game suitable for everyone from pre-teens to adults. Using two standard decks of playing cards, you'll bid for control of the story. Players take turns being Class Captain, setting the scene and controlling any NPCs while the other players narrate the actions of their kittens. When your laser goes off, you never know if it will do something amazing or backfire terribly, creating kitten chaos. The fun is in seeing what happens!

When you back Laser Kittens you can get a PDF and audio versions of the rulebook, or a softcover physical copy (100 pages, 6x9 inches). At higher pledge levels, you can get your cat included as an NPC, or even have our artist (Cynthia Lee) incorporate your cat into the book's illustrations. Back Laser Kittens today!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Recent Press

Hello everyone!

2016 is proving to be a big exciting year for Glittercats. We are gearing up to bring Laser Kittens to Kickstarter on February 1st and we can not be anymore excited for that!

Below, I'm adding links to a bunch of press that we've done, just so you can hear what we've been talking about,

One Shot Podcast
Chey did a play thru of The Fool's Journey while at Metatopia 2015. We had a blast?

(also, I've included a picture of the journey track from the game with the amazing Happy Tarot deck by Serena Ficca.

Geek Initiative 

Again, from Metatopia 2015

We will have so much press coming out in the following weeks, make sure and stay tuned!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Why -- or why not -- use the Apocalypse World system?

I love games that use the Apocalypse World system. At Metatopia I playtested a bunch of AW-bsed games, ranging from relatively straightforward transpositions of the mechanics into new scenarios, to wildly creative reimaginings of the system. It's my go-to system for a more traditional* game.

So when I design a game, it's worth asking why I am, or am not, using the AW system as my basis. The two games I brought to Metatopia make a good illustration of this, since one is AW and the other is not.

My AW game, tentatively titled "Get Ready to Rock," is about a band on tour. It was inspired in part by some sessions of the "Touring Rock Band" and "Touring Rock Band 2" Fiasco playsets -- so I know that you can tell the kind of stories I wanted to tell without AW mechanics. And my use of AW started in part simply from noticing the similarity between the name "Apocalypse World" and the name of the show "Metalocalypse" (another key inspiration). But the game has progressed and worked because the AW system does certain things that are useful for the kind of stories I want the game to produce.

First, one of the key drivers of the game is the tension between the cohesion necessary to play music together, versus the clash of egos that arises when a band hits the big time. This is supported in part by some of the base AW mechanics. The use of differentiated playbooks geared to different roles in the story helps to model both the complementary differences that make a band work (made obvious in the formulas used by music executives constructing boy bands and supergroups), as well as the different directions that each member's personality will tug the band in. I also borrowed the "strings" mechanic pretty directly from Monsterhearts (which I regard as the paradigm of an AW game, perhaps even more so than AW itself) as a way of intensifying the need to make complicated choices that implicate your fellow band members. I also implemented one innovation which followed smoothly from the AW base: the band as an entity has its own playbook, separate from the players' individual ones, with its own set of stats, its own harm track, and moves that can only be done by the band as a whole.

Second, I wanted the game to motivate the characters to make bad decisions and get themselves into trouble. This is not a game where the GM dreams up a set of challenges that the players then work to overcome -- instead, the characters' own actions should get twisted to draw them further into complicated situations and force them to make difficult choices. The aforementioned strings are an obvious way to do this, and I enhance their role in the game to allow players to make things complicated for each other. But even more importantly, the "partial success" mechanic in AW leads directly to complications. Having clearly structured "moves" means that players are confronted with tough choices and a framework for complicating their own lives when they roll anything less than a 10.

On the other hand, I think there are good reasons that Laser Kittens is not an AW game. For this game I developed my own system, based on bidding cards from two standard poker decks. There are several aspects of the gameplay that I wanted, which would be difficult to model using an AW basis.

First, Laser Kittens is a game with a rotating GM. Now, I know there are GM-less AW games out there, so it's not an impossibility. But it doesn't follow easily, because there is a tension between the player-level decisions involved in bidding to GM a scene, versus the character-level actions of using your playbook's moves. Bidding for the GM role would have required a separate mechanic, whereas my original system was able to seamlessly merge the mechanics for picking a GM with the mechanics for resolving conflicts within a scene.

Second, I wanted to model the chaos of kitten life. While much emphasis is placed on the partial success mechanics of AW, ultimately characters in an AW-based game are more or less in control of what they're doing, within known parameters of probability. On the other hand, kittens are not in control -- they have limited knowledge and limited control over their own bodies. The card-bidding mechanic of Laser Kittens generates a good deal of chaos. (I had one playtester tell me that she had more fun when she selected her bid entirely at random, rather than trying to purposefully choose a good card.) Moreover, bidding from a fixed set of cards encourages players to deliberately invite failure by spending bad cards, both as a way of refreshing their hand and as a storytelling end in itself. This is something that can't be done with a dice-based system, where each roll is uncontrollable and statistically independent of each other roll.

Third, there are the lasers. I'm planning a longer post about how I developed the laser mechanic, so for the moment I'll suffice it to say that nothing in the standard AW toolkit allows for modeling some of the key characteristics of lasers in the game. Specifically, lasers (unlike character moves in an AW game) 1) build up "pressure" over time until they're forced to go off, and 2) have success/failure levels that can be progressively learned about, and adjusted, during the power-up period.

That being said, translating what Laser Kittens has become into an AW-based system is an interesting challenge, and a potential stretch goal for Kickstarter!

*I know some people regard AW games as super indie. But to me, "traditional" encompasses any game in which there is a distinction between GM and players, and in which each player controls a character whose abilities are defined by a set of "stats and powers."

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Fate Accelerated: The Apple Pie Party caucuses

I've played exactly one session of Fate, but since it's such a popular system, I wanted to try running a Fate Accelerated game. Here's a sketch of the scenario I put together -- the Apple Pie Party caucuses.

Eccentric billionaire doorknob magnate Lester O'Malley is fed up with the two-party system. He founded the Apple Pie Party to try to give some normal people who are not career politicians a chance at breaking the Democratic-Republican stranglehold on the presidency. He has promised to bankroll the presidential campaign of whichever candidate wins the Apple Pie Party's primaries, starting with the Iowa caucuses. But the big parties are nervous that the Apple Pie candidate could be a spoiler, and they'll do whatever it takes to stop them.

Players begin by writing down an unusual policy stance (such as "ban all corn and corn products," "blow up the moon," or "a pot in every chicken") on slips of paper. These are then shuffled and handed out, to give each player the germ of a character. Each character starts with four aspects:

  1. A high concept (usually a personality trait + job before running for president, such as "lecherous wizard," "clairvoyant steelworker," or "bankrupt tractor salesperson", though there were some wackier ones like "12 opossums in a human suit")
  2. A trouble (the scandal or skeleton in the closet that could bring down their campaign)
  3. Two policy positions -- the one you were randomly allocated, and one more you make up for yourself.
For this game, I did partial pregens, creating high concepts, two relevant stunts for each, and scores on approaches. (Stunts included things like an infinite campaign war chest, a bonus to actions done while riding a tractor, and a bonus when helping someone in the same Hogwarts house) Players filled in their policy positions as well as names and descriptions.

The game proceeds through four scenes. A poll is released at the end of each scene, indicating the candidates' relative standing as determined by the GM.:

  1. The Iowa State Fair, where the candidates are introduced to the public by O'Malley and do some campaigning while eating fried things on sticks.
  2. A televised debate. In the first round of the debate, each candidate answers a question from a viewer submitted via Twitter. In the second round, each candidate can challenge another candidate with a question.
  3. Tom Harkin's steak fry -- another chance for some open-ended campaigning. (For time reasons, we skipped this one.)
  4. The Iowa caucuses.

Overall, the game ran pretty well. The candidates united on the issue of destroying the moon, while arguing over who was secretly or not-so-secretly an animal in a human disguise. Their primary challenges were the NPC APP candidate Nimlock the Barbarian (campaigning on a platform of slaughtering all carbon-based life forms), and Des Moines Register lead political reporter Barbara Anderson, who was clearly in the bag for Ted Cruz. Two things need more work:

  • The polls. I just impressionistically adjusted candidates' standing based on whether I thought their actions were appealing to the public. If I run this again, I would want to come up with a clearer mechanism for gaining or losing votes, as well as rewards and penalties for candidates' standing in the polls.
  • The final vote at the caucuses. In this game, I assigned each candidate a rating between 2 and 4 depending on their final poll standing, then had them roll their dice and add the result to their rating. Thye could spend Fate points to re-roll. If I ran it again, I would want to flesh out the caucuses as a scene, with all of the arguing and re-allocating of votes that goes on at the real Democratic Party caucuses in Iowa. (The GOP caucuses are much more sedate and primary-like.)