Soul's Calling Basic Handbook Beta Test soon

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Omnifray:- fantasy roleplay in the mysterious Enshrouded Lands, "a thousand worlds in one", where magic bubbles away beneath the surface, beyond the ken of the common folk, with a unique, detailed, highly flexible rules system

Soul's Calling Basic Handbook Beta Test soon

Postby Omnifray » 2:08am on 03 Feb 13

The decision is now made. Soul's Calling will be coming out as a Basic Handbook containing the entire basic edition of the game and an Expert Manual upgrading it to the advanced edition. Characters genned up in the basic edition will be fully playable in the advanced edition and on an exact par with the normal advanced edition characters for power. Only weapon/armour stats will have to be converted, but that's a straightfoward case of opening up the advanced book at the weapons section and copying out the right stats for your weapons/armour, adding your base stats as you go.

I've spent a lot of time on selecting and tidying up material for the Basic Handbook.

This is what it looks like now (remembering please that it's in quite a large font):-

[MOST RECENTLY UPDATED 17 Feb 13 - core mechanics expanded]

Intro --- mainly the game-world in brief & cardinal rules for players - about 14 pages [virtually finished]
1. CharGen --- random, but balanced, using templates - about 40 pages [unfinished]
2. Core Mechanics --- mainly lots of explanation of how to use them - about 40 pages [finished]
{the actual core mechanics themselves can be summarised in a couple of short paragraphs}
3. Persuasion --- about 11 pages [finished]
4. Initiative [for hard-rules combat] --- about 7 pages [finished]
5. Injury [mainly for hard-rules combat] --- about 15 pages (including wound infections) [finished]
6. Stealth --- about 5 pages [finished]
7. Magic --- about 40 pages [virtually finished]
8. Mental Capabilities - about 5 pages [finished - mostly reffing advice]
9. The Game-World --- about 33 pages (includes lots of metaphysics and very brief rules on Fate) [finished]
10. Herbal Concoctions (including poison) --- currently about 12 pages [finished]
11. Advancement --- about 20 pages [finished]
12. Bestiary --- say 10 creatures in about 6 pages [unfinished]
13. Pregens --- say 5 pregens, genned up using advanced edition CharGen, slightly customisable [unfinished]
Appendix --- Intended Playing Style --- mainly reffing advice --- about 50 pages [finished]

As anyone reading this will probably already know or be able to guess, the game is focused on a particular style of play emphasising immersion.

My current thoughts are that within the next couple of months I'll be in a position to release the Beta Test version of the Basic Handbook. I'm going to release it as a free PDF and separately as low-cost POD. I'll leave out chapters 10, 11 and 13 from the free PDF and use different creatures for the bestiary than in the final version because I'd like people who enjoyed it but don't fancy the advanced edition to have more of an incentive than just artwork to buy the final product or at least the POD playtest version.

Obviously the Beta Test version will be out for some months before the final version but the likelihood is that there won't be any significant amount of typos and the game-design is robust enough* to withstand playtest feedback from a wider audience. Probably only the final (non-playtest) version will be indexed.

* i.e. Matt is stubborn enough

I know people will say that a book of nearly 300 pages (including intro, appendix, artwork & game-aids) is too much. By the way about a quarter of that is essentially gaming advice tailored to this specific style of game. But whatever - I'd be almost in tears at the thought of this game circulating without the pointers people need for the intended playstyle. If I don't get to circulate my eccentric wall-of-text of reffing tips, what's the point in writing a game at all :p

So here's the biggest question... am I leaving out the right bits for a freely downloadable PDF for the Beta Playtest? Rules on Advancement haven't changed much since the Alpha Playtest version (though they have changed very slightly). They're better packaged now, more user-friendly, but at bottom I know they're solid from the Alpha Playtest. People will want customisable pregens, more monsters and rules for herbalism, but they're not critical to the playtest.

I will probably include the missing info (but with yet a different bestiary again, and some of the customisable pregens might be different) in the (cheap-as-reasonably-possible) POD version of the Beta Playtest.

Any comments, thoughts or questions on my proposed format for the book? Any glaring omissions? Anything seem woefully excessive?
Looking for playtesters for the Implodarc Tabletop RPG. If you'd like to playtest it and post public feedback or an AP thread, ask me for the private link to download it, or I can e-mail it to you. At least compared to my usual stuff, it's meant to be simple and quick to play with quick CharGen.
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Re: Soul's Calling Basic Handbook Beta Test soon

Postby Baz King » 12:44pm on 03 Feb 13

SEVEN pages on initiative?!

This I have to see...
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Re: Soul's Calling Basic Handbook Beta Test soon

Postby Omnifray » 1:22pm on 03 Feb 13

Baz King wrote:SEVEN pages on initiative?!

This I have to see...


Well it's not *just* about who goes when... the layout of the chapter is:-

1-page flow-chart for the Combat Cycle (roll initiative, move, act if it's your turn, repeat from step 2 for a while...)
What Combat Cycles Are [hint:- they're not two-wheeled pedal-powered vehicles with guns mounted on them]
Explanation of Movement Phase & Movement Rates ( ~1 page)
The Action Phase including acting out of turn, what 1 action is, speech & simultaneous actions (~3 pages)
Miscellaneous Bits & Bobs - rolling for NPCs as a group, steeds & riders, more on acting out of turn (~ 1 page)
Melee Reach (~ half page)

In the advanced edition, the initiative rules are much more interesting. Improbable though that sounds, it's really true :-)
Looking for playtesters for the Implodarc Tabletop RPG. If you'd like to playtest it and post public feedback or an AP thread, ask me for the private link to download it, or I can e-mail it to you. At least compared to my usual stuff, it's meant to be simple and quick to play with quick CharGen.
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Re: Soul's Calling Basic Handbook Beta Test soon

Postby Omnifray » 3:15pm on 11 Feb 13

So now I've virtually finished the magic section, and it's 40 pages long - more than double what I hoped, but the reason is partly that I spend about 10 pages at the start of the chapter explaining one example spell description bit by bit, then another 4 pages amplifying one aspect of that explanation.

The structure of the chapter is:-

(1) an example spell description explained bit by bit, including the dice-rolls involved in casting magic
(2) one aspect of the example spell description revisited - namely, different in-fiction ways of casting spells
(3) 13 individual spells getting on average just over a page each (total:- 14 pages)
(4) finer points of the magic system (about 12 pages), including in-fiction reasons for caution in using it

I hope that sounds reasonable!

The example spell description I use for (1) is a spell I hadn't meant to include in the basic edition of the game, The Wellspring of Death (basically, directly & magically snuffing out your victim's life).
Looking for playtesters for the Implodarc Tabletop RPG. If you'd like to playtest it and post public feedback or an AP thread, ask me for the private link to download it, or I can e-mail it to you. At least compared to my usual stuff, it's meant to be simple and quick to play with quick CharGen.
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Re: Soul's Calling Basic Handbook Beta Test soon

Postby Omnifray » 12:50am on 17 Feb 13

So I had one of those mini-epiphanies this week.

I woke up on Tuesday morning and this idea just came to me.

I'd already written up some lovely rules on trick shots for combat but had planned to leave them for the advanced edition of the rules. They only took up a couple of pages or so and I'd concluded that they were nice and all, but non-essential. It was ages ago I wrote them up for the combat rules, and it must have been in the last week of January that I'd made the decision to leave them out of the basic edition.

And then I suddenly just randomly started reasoning from the particular to the general. Why have this neat little system just for trick shots in combat, when I could also apply it to anything that uses the core mechanic?*

It's the sort of thing Neil Gow would probably commend:- nice, flexible core-mechanics, not fiddly little sub-systems.

And now the blasted thing has added 10 pages to my Core Mechanics chapter. Including a cheat-sheet. And when I say cheat, I mean cheat. I spent about 5 hours running computer-analyses to work out where the tactical advantages lie in using the new system, and happily, they closely parallel what one would expect in-fiction. (The computer program I wrote, in JustBASIC, performs over half a million explicit BASIC calculations, and probably many millions of machine-level operations. It takes half a minute to run!) Then I distilled the core of that into a couple of user-friendly paragraphs that a ten-year-old could cope with, gave it a flowery introduction and some formatting and wham! A whole page on how to cheat the system. That's probably the strangest thing I'll ever include in an RPG product, but I see value in it.

It's not really a wholly new mechanic, just a way of manipulating the existing mechanics to answer a slightly different question than they normally would, and the basic principles of it are very simple. Much of what takes up the 10 pages is a half-ton of examples of how to use it in different ways.

For instance, this now lets you do things like carve your initials on your foe's forehead with your sword during a fight, or use a spell of fiery immolation to burn your enemy's eyes out.

Thing is, it's a fantastic tool for the ref to mould the dice-checks to the players' stated intentions.

It's so important that it effectively gets a paragraph in the Intro to the book, though without the mechanics being mentioned, but rather in the context of essentials for the players' immersive experience.

So now looking back on my gaming and game-design hitherto, I see the previous absence of this approach as a massive Achilles' heel. Mind-boggling.

It's weird that I find this kind of thing mind-boggling, I know.

I can't think of any trad game that I've seen do a particularly similar thing, though I'm 100% sure it will have been done already by someone somewhere, and I think I've come across one or two that may be somewhere in the ballpark, at least in how they were GM'd/improvised by the GM. Storygames can achieve a very similar element of flexibility because of the way stakes are set and narratives created, but those techniques create a very storygamey feel. Mine has a very conventional feel to it.

It might slow things down slightly but that will be partly by encouraging the players to give a bit more when stating their actions.

I've also expanded my chapter on the Enshrouded Lands by 8 pages to accommodate price-lists and a short exegesis on my simplistic version of the feudal system. Please remember, this is in 12-point font. You don't get a lot on a page, especially in a table.

So anyway. The new mechanic. It's called FOE-STOP. You heard about it first right here :-)

* although I have worked out that for a variety of very different reasons it has virtually no practical application to stealth, skills, mental stats, perception-type stats or health and none at all to persuasion, which basically means that it's for combat, magic and maybe strength, agility and very occasionally perhaps a skill-related roll
Looking for playtesters for the Implodarc Tabletop RPG. If you'd like to playtest it and post public feedback or an AP thread, ask me for the private link to download it, or I can e-mail it to you. At least compared to my usual stuff, it's meant to be simple and quick to play with quick CharGen.
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Re: Soul's Calling Basic Handbook Beta Test soon

Postby Omnifray » 9:08pm on 17 Feb 13

And there's even more gone into my core mechanics chapter now!

This time it's multi-stage task dice-checks. They're really quite beautiful.

I even use the example of climbing a 100' cliff, thank you Mr. Gow.
Looking for playtesters for the Implodarc Tabletop RPG. If you'd like to playtest it and post public feedback or an AP thread, ask me for the private link to download it, or I can e-mail it to you. At least compared to my usual stuff, it's meant to be simple and quick to play with quick CharGen.
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Re: Soul's Calling Basic Handbook Beta Test soon

Postby Omnifray » 3:14pm on 04 Mar 13

Sadly I now think this is going to be around 370 pages long (albeit in large font) including the intro, table of contents & various appendages at the end such as blank character sheets.

Yep, that's for the basic edition.

On the bright side it's absolutely brimming with things that I know will improve my gaming, not just rules, setting and tips, but practical aides too. The rudiments of these were for the most part present in the draft version I wheeled out at Indiecon 2011, but they've been refined since. Others are entirely new (for my games).

I'm kind of thinking of it as "Omnimatt's Guide to Everything I've Learnt About My Preferred Kind of Gaming Since I Wrote Full-Fat Omnifray".
Looking for playtesters for the Implodarc Tabletop RPG. If you'd like to playtest it and post public feedback or an AP thread, ask me for the private link to download it, or I can e-mail it to you. At least compared to my usual stuff, it's meant to be simple and quick to play with quick CharGen.
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Re: Soul's Calling Basic Handbook Beta Test soon

Postby oreso » 9:13pm on 04 Mar 13

Omnifray wrote:Sadly I now think this is going to be around 370 pages long (albeit in large font) including the intro, table of contents & various appendages at the end such as blank character sheets.
:shock:


I'm kind of thinking of it as "Omnimatt's Guide to Everything I've Learnt About My Preferred Kind of Gaming Since I Wrote Full-Fat Omnifray".
Do I really need to read -that- hefty tome, just to play one game? Should anyone?
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Re: Soul's Calling Basic Handbook Beta Test soon

Postby Omnifray » 1:44am on 05 Mar 13

oreso wrote:
I'm kind of thinking of it as "Omnimatt's Guide to Everything I've Learnt About My Preferred Kind of Gaming Since I Wrote Full-Fat Omnifray".
Do I really need to read -that- hefty tome, just to play one game? Should anyone?


If it had been written with the same size of font as full-fat Omnifray, I'm guessing it would have been about 128 pages.

The whole point of this game is to give people what I've gained over the last four and a half years.

Having said that, I reckon it probably takes a half-hour introduction from the ref to get new players on their feet. There's a 1-page checklist to go through with new players being included in the back of the book.

And if they do pre-reading, the 15 page Intro would be a great start.

I certainly don't expect players to read the whole book. But the ref should at least skim it.
Looking for playtesters for the Implodarc Tabletop RPG. If you'd like to playtest it and post public feedback or an AP thread, ask me for the private link to download it, or I can e-mail it to you. At least compared to my usual stuff, it's meant to be simple and quick to play with quick CharGen.
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