The Game That Was Vesperteen

September 11, 2006

So Push 1 is out. The rumblings about Push 2 and Four Nations have started. Which leaves me with the Vesperteen, my pseudo-sequel to Jason Blair’s childhood horror game, Little Fears.

In a thread that Jason Morningstar started recently, I said that game design is a river you can’t step into twice, because your tastes and mood and sense of design is constantly changing. And that’s partially why Shreyas has had so much trouble finishing Torchbearer, because he started it while his design senses were just beginning to blossom and they’ve growth like kudzu since then. And the same could be said for me and Vesperteen, which was originally going to be my “Forge game.”

Shreyas decided that he’s going to make two new, different games, neither of which are probably going to be called “Torchbearer,” to plug the font in his psyche that Torchbearer was supposed to cap. I wish him the best in that, but I’d really like to finish a game about the core concept of Vesperteen, which was that power and social standing among teenagers is derived from sinful deeds and that the exchange of sin for power is a dangerous, addictive one that can turn kids into monsters. It’s about the fear of growing up to become an adult that you don’t actually like or respect.

Interestingly, the current not-so-good prep school witch movie, The Covenant, is about this same theme. It’s possible that seeing it awakened my desire to do this right.

But it’s clear that Vesperteen is going to have to bend to reflect design skills and interests that have grown and changed since I last worked on the project, especially my recent revelations about creating game content that evolves and develops as you play with it. It’ll also probably need a new name, eventually. Because renaming a thing has the potential to reenergize a project. It’s not something old, but something new and exciting. Right now, Young Monsters or When We Were Monsters are winning.

Recent thoughts:

– Can the Squick Chart evolve over time, as the players get more comfortable exploring sensitive issues with each other? Maybe the initial Squick Chart is created by the initial Truth or Dare stage that performs the bulk of character creation, based on what characters will do or admit to having done.

– Perhaps you only define as many Squick levels as characters have actually performed in play. This makes the exploratory nature of discovering sin much more obvious, since you wouldn’t really know what you were getting into before you encountered it. However, I would worry about the potential for such play to be dangerous, since that’s what having a fully defined Squick Chart was originally supposed to mitigate.

– I think the GM is going to be responsible for playing two characters: the town (all the adults) and the school (all the other kids). Just like PCs, these two entities have past sins that they have performed, the exploration and uncovering of which may make up a significant portion of play. Maybe you want to figure out why weird stuff happens around the site of some mysterious accident. Dealing with the sins of your fathers (and mothers and peers) and all that jazz. And just like PCs, entities that are part of the town and school always stand the risk of turning into monsters (one of the benefits of treating them like PCs).

– I’d like the details of NPCs lives and past monstrous deeds to be emergant in play, becoming more complex and interesting as players choose to explore them. And I’d like this to be supported mechanically. But I’d also like to keep the paperwork to a minimum, having learned from games like Continuum (which is awesome, but requires too much record keeping). I’m still pondering how to do this.

2 Responses to “The Game That Was Vesperteen”

  1. Daniel Solis Says:

    I had the same problem with my creative flux, which is why I went to the rather rigorous Luchacabra schedule. Better to have a bunch of small games focusing on my design obsession du jour, I figure. Obviously that’s not so easy with a role-playing game, but perhaps you could simply write one mechanic at a time for, say, two months. After that time, you can look back at that output and examine whether any of that stuff fits in well with your ultimate goal?

  2. Jonathan Walton Says:

    I’m serious trying to think of this as a “short, quick project.” I was able to churn out Kazekami Kyoko and Waiting/Tea because I thought of them as simple, fast games that I could do in a snap. They got longer as I revised them, but the core mechanics were done in a handful of days. I have enough material already created that I hope I can do that for this game.


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