San Japan Bound!

By the time you read this, our product demonstrator will be at San Japan’s table-top gaming room showing off the version 0.02 alpha of Aes: Brass Revolution! Available to play testers will be a free bookmark and a chance at a free art print in one of three sizes: 4×6″, 6×8″, or 8.5×11″.

Friday will be casual, with one game possibly running before the Masquerade Ball at 7:30 PM and possibly one after it’s done (after 11:30 PM in the late night gaming room). On Saturday, he’ll be setting up a poster to advertise and running games all day into the late night.

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On Sunday, after check out, he’ll run a few more games before the con closes down. There’s no set start or end times and the game is designed to run with as few as 1 player. Stop on by!

Character Sheet v2

One of the key parts of any game is the character sheet. It has to be brief (2 pages, at most) and contain the most vital information for players to consult at a glance. Here’s a break down of how we’re constructing one for Aes.

While the first served mainly as a learning exercise in the use of Photoshop to create such a form, the second iteration is intended to last far longer into the play cycle.

AesCharacterSheetPage01Page 1 is the most complex. The upper left quarter is for character descriptors. Below that, the weapons. Across from the weapons is the armor, close by due to the association. Above that are the vitals: the ideals, derived stats, and the two fluctuating numbers, augs and XP.

In the future, augs and XP will get their own joint box, since it’s likely players will be changing the values there. Augs may also be moved to the back.

The last two spaces are talents (not yet implemented) and faculties. Keeping the faculties to one line each allowed for each compilation of the derived numbers they conveyed. The visual motif of a pentagon to represent levels of talents and faculties may or may not be retained in the future, but seems to have gone over well so far.

AesCharacterSheetPage02

Page 2 breathes a bit better. The levels are there on the bottom as a reminder, but it’s likely they’ll be moved to the front. Goals is at the top to help the player cement their character motivation, as well as to supply the Invisible Hand with material they can use. The others are there to allow players to both note what they have and give room for brief descriptions.

Originally, there were fewer lines in the boxes. I increased the number per the advice of the play testers. I may also adjust the dimensions to move material from the front page.

Overall, this design has many elements we can see remaining in place for some time to come. A third iteration will likely be a ways off, when further refinement of the system has occurred.

The Feel of Aes

When we decided to go the path of Minimum Viable Product, we started with the feel of the game. When someone plays, what emotions do we want them to experience? Table-top RPG’s can cover quite a few, such as fellowship, challenges, or narratives. Fellowship is the social aspect of playing with other people; challenge is the defeat of complex bosses; and, narrative is the story of the adventures.

We picked growth and discovery. We want explorers to experience the growth of their characters over time. You don’t start out as greater than those around you – your beginning level is about average for the surrounding. It’s up to you to work and struggle to stand out and forge your own path. (Contrast this with games that have level 1 characters as already greater than normal.) The world needs exceptional people and the explorer needs to fill that need through their own development. The morality of the game, measured by ideals, is woven into the design by how it steers that growth. Certain kinds of progress will be favored over others, i.e. becoming a wealthy founder of an industry is going to be easier than trying to live by burning orphanages on sight.

Discovery covers the customization and maker aspect, as well as the broader environment. One reason pre-made adventures have begun to fall out of favor is that they railroad the Invisible Hand and explorers into preset narratives. In the age of Minecraft and “make your own,” it’s better to provide details on the broader world and let people choose how they wish to interact with it. Making, a core mechanic, lets explorers adjust their gear to suit their needs. Environmental based task and conflict sources via expansion material allows the Invisible Hand to pick and choose what they want to bring into their games.

There will be challenges and fellowship as a result of play, but these are not at the core of the decision process. We don’t see the game as a grind fest of battling waves of enemies or as a primarily social experience. Ideally, a single explorer and a single Invisible Hand should still be able to play and have fun with no special rules. We are not going to require owners to have access to large groups of friends (though it does make things more fun).

By knowing our focus – growth and discovery – this has aided significantly in our design choices for faculties and mods. We’ve chosen to minimize combat and stat oriented game elements (they are present, but in a minority) and instead try to increase utility and role-play centric content. We want to have open-ended abilities available so players are rewarded for “out of the box” thinking. They’re growth in familiarity becomes a tool for character advancement as much as boosting the numbers on the page. This encourages new insight into old material, improving replay value over more categorized and definitive word choices.

This is a challenging direction to take and our alpha does not perfectly align with it yet. With an end in mind, though, working towards it becomes simpler. We will simply have to grow to the task as designers!

Dream of the Red Binder

Games go through many phases when they’re being developed. Most people know of beta releases – this is when many games are brought to public attention. Before that, however, is the even more rough alpha stage. This is where Aes is currently.

In a beta, you basically have what you know you want the game to look like. Your goal is to get it polished and ready for release. This can take many years. An alpha, in contrast, is a “throw things at a wall, see what sticks” stage. This is when crazy ideas are the best ideas. You never know what concept might spark an entirely new mechanic. This stage offers a lot of freedom, since anything can be modified based on the feedback garnered.

For the alpha of Aes, we’ve chosen to start with a “minimal viable product.” This is a concept we encountered via Extra Credits. While aimed at video games, the concept applies broadly to all kinds of games as a way to test the basic mechanics. The very first go at Aes was a mess, with overly complex rules and unnecessary details. It wasn’t until we boiled down the main mechanics, picked out the main features that stood at the foundation of the play, that the game began to gel. (More on that process later.)

This is the alpha. It’s missing, on purpose, a lot of features that we plan to add later. Materials, kindred, status effects – all are planned, but none of them are here. At least at first. We’re starting with as basic as we can make it, because if it’s fun in this form, then adding more depth will only amplify that fun. If there’s a problem, then it’ll be both easy to spot and easy to correct, since there won’t be a ton of content set in stone.

There are, currently, 10 alpha booklets, coil bound to make reading easier. Enhancing these will be packets of info as they’re made. When those packets pile up, a new alpha book comes out with revisions that emerge from testing.

For the developers, though, we need a more steadily compiled version. Solution?

The Red Binder.

Our content is single sided and hole punched, inserted and replaced as it’s made so we always have the most up to date version. The binder is held onto by the developer running product demonstrations. It shall be our good luck charm in the months to come!

Aes: Brass Revolution – Important Links

This is the development blog for Aes: Brass Revolution. There’ll be more content soon. In the meantime, here are some key links for you:

1. The Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Aes-Brass-Revolution/790320491045187

2. The Playtester group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/aesbrass/

3. The Twitter – https://twitter.com/AesBrass

Want to contact the development team? Use aesbrassNOSPAM@gmail.com (remove NOSPAM).