Pirate Design Goals

May 15, 2006

Design goals for the short-form game The Good Ship Revenge, or, Black Flag Heartbreak, or, Mary, Anne, & Jack:

  1. Write a game about the three-way, bisexual, cross-dressing, possibly trans (in Mary’s case), torrid, tragic pirate romance between Mary Read, Anne Bonny (or “Bonnay”), and “Calico” Jack Rackam, who conveniently sailed on a ship called Revenge.
  2. No attributes/skills. No GM. No resource management. No character sheets (except for maybe some TSOY-style Keys?). Characters are defined by the limitations they put on player choices. This is kinda my design default lately.
  3. Make a game with a strictly limited set of roles, but one that’s able to support a variable number of players. So, like Polaris, or Breaking the Ice, or Kazekami Kyoko, or Waiting/Tea, but have it be more flexible. The number of players can vary between 2-5, say.
  4. Use framing techniques at a sub-scene level, framing shots as if in a movie. Steal from the ashes of the failed-but-educational “arthouse wuxia” project.
  5. Create a game that is wildly variable in length, depending on player preference, suitable for both one-shots, short story arcs, and, possibly, open ended campaigns; something that can turn into a one-session blood opera, but doesn’t have to.
  6. Mimick, in tabletop format, the character/narrative control scheme commonly practiced in online collaborative fiction writing, where each player is responsible for “writing” a particular central character, can write for other central characters with their players’ permission, and shares almost complete control (as long as no one objects) over minor characters, setting, situation, and color with the other players.
  7. Practice and learn stuff to implement in Vesperteen and other projects. My short form games are the training ground for bigger stuff.

The game is basically already written in my head and uses the “Broken Wheel” I posted recently as a kind of simple “battle map” in the manner that Shreyas wrote about here. Players move chess pieces (representing major and minor characters) around the wheel, which creates “shots” or “series of shots” in a cinematic sense, combining a grouping of characters with a general type of behavior common in the pirate genre and creating opportunities for conflicts. I’m hoping to write it all up later this week.

Dev, you said you were looking for a pirate game to play. This could be it.

2 Responses to “Pirate Design Goals”

  1. DevP Says:

    There are, of course, many different “pirate games” out there to be made, each touching on a different evocative theme.But you certainly have my attention.

  2. Jonathan Walton Says:

    Of course. I didn’t mean to imply that this is The Pirate Game to End All Pirate Games, The Seal on the Pirates or whatever.


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