Archive for the 'Fingers on the Firmament' Category

Notes from the Pub

January 18, 2012

This is a smattering of thoughts drawn from recent design discussions, so I can have them for future reference.

Fingers on the Firmament

  • Emily’s game Caravan Solitaire is amazing and does many of the things I want this game to do.
  • I should finish the short game based on Journey first, since it’ll get me part of the way there.
  • The game should probably be 1-on-1 as default, with the GM playing the landscape of space and the ruins. When you meet other people, the game stops and you have to invite other people into the game to play them. They can decide to hang around for later stuff or not. I’m not sure the GM ever plays NPCs, though they might play ghosts or memories. Every person you meet is a distinct PC and that person can then take that character with them, find another GM, and continue their story.
  • Convention or meetup play would involve a bunch of characters gathering together to attempt a major feat, like exploring an unfamiliar region or deciphering a complex ancient mystery.
  • Play creates a record of new places and ruins and creations that you put up on the internet, creating a “living campaign” that others can participate in.
  • I’ve been worried about the moves for traveling between the stars, but that should be one of the fruitful voids, perhaps, with moves that — when taken together — allow you to do that, but without a single travel move that’s too on-the-nose. Players should be encouraged to seek out the fictional positioning that makes traveling possible or safer.
  • Playing out certain portions of the games “unlocks” moves for both the PC who does it and later folks who play through that same series of locations in the “living campaign.” In order to be able to do certain things, then, you may have to play with characters of a certain type/level or find someone who’s unlocked certain achievements and get them to send you their campaign notes.

Geiger Counter

  • In the new version, there are cards for specific characters (“Choi”), setting types (“Deep Freeze,” “The Facility”), menace types (“Hunter,” “Horde”), and locations (“Generator Room,” “Alien Ruins”). All of these have conditions that the menace player can choose to apply when they are in play in a given scene.
  • Location cards give a brief description of how to draw the location on the map and, on the back, have scene framing suggestions for what you might do in that space, in the event that you don’t have strong feelings about what you want to do. They may even involve other locations, such as “someone shows up in a different room with news from this location.”
  • There’s some way to encourage folks to frame really short scenes? Or vary the length of scenes instead of having them all roughly the same length?

Firmament: Pre-Gen Pics

August 19, 2011

Man, too much stuff to do before PAX. Here’s some pre-gens for Firmament, though they’re not nearly as ethnically diverse as I eventually want.

Catches Fire (cartographer)

Apex (astrologer)

Thrice (antiquarian)

Firmament Notes: The Sciences

April 27, 2010

Life’s been too busy to work on Geiger, so here are some notes mostly to myself.

In addition to all the other scarcities that Apocalypse World is normally about, Fingers on the Firmament is about a scarcity of people or — even worse — any sign of human existence. Floating in the vastness of space, it’s nearly impossible to find anything at all. The universe is insanity-inducingly immense and basically empty.

The Darkness Between the Stars = The Psychic Maelstrom, duh.

The Three Sciences, Cartography, Astronomy, and Archeology, are basically the equivalent of character types, except that they encompass an even wider range of optional special moves. Two Cartographers are probably even more different than two characters of the same type in AW. There’s also another category of special moves, outside the Sciences, which can be gained contextually, based on things you discover in play or from having too much congress with The Darkness. Actually, those are probably too different sets — contextual moves and the Lonesome Arts, learned while lost in space.

The Hardholder and other leadership moves are definitely contextual, with rules like: “If you have a group of more than N people, any player can choose to purchase Leadership” or “If you’ve seized control of a base area, spend blah blah blah to improve it, choose related gigs, etc.” Vincent basically implies these kinds of contextual things already, but I want to make some very explicit and perhaps even connected to specific locations.

Archaeology = pretty close to the Savvyhead, communes with all the relics and ruins and remains. Probably has some default gigs related to uncovering secrets or following trails of ancient history. I kinda want to call that gig “Do Mysteries” but that’s AW jargon, not Firmament. Also probably has something like “Fucking Thieves” where he always has random gear on hand.

Cartography = a mixture of escape / travel moves (“Eye on the Door”) and tracking moves (“Lost”), but built around a core set of mapping moves that are probably brand new, plus some of the Skinner’s performance-based stuff, because Cartography is done through dancing and body memory. Natural gigs are related to mapping, uncovering lost roads, etc.

Astronomy = combination Brainer, Angel, Hocus, focusing on talking with stars (a different kind of weird than The Darkness) and manipulating starlight. I’m thinking that, fundamentally, there are a couple core currencies: Starlight (which is effectively hold you have over all sorts of things) and some kind of debt to the Darkness (hold it has over you, which you can spend in an attempt to rid yourself of it). Astronomy specializes in the former. Not sure what an astronomer’s natural gigs are. Maybe lighting and maintaining beacons (non-star objects that emit starlight and are thus critical to navigation)? That would seem to place them close with the others near the core concept of the game, which is great since they’ve been an outlier in earlier conceptualizations.

The core moves will be adjusted to basically be the foundations of all the Sciences, because everybody has to do a bit of everything just to survive, especially in instances where you get lost and alone. Of course, you can always take on more debt to the Darkness to be reunited with other people wandering through space, but eventually you make return to your group as an insane, destructive creature of the void, considering the amount of hold it’ll have over you, and that’ll be pretty bad for them.

Blame Judd

January 7, 2009

Judd linked to a hot new Hubble photo and I couldn’t help myself.


Fixing a Lop-Sided Triforce

October 7, 2008

In Fingers on the Firmament, the off-again on-again game I’m supposed to be co-developing with Justin D. Jacobson, my intent was to make a GM-less d20 game in which the minimum number of players was three, one for each of the main splats: cartographers, astronomers, archaeologists. The idea was basically to make a version of Polaris’ four player roles (Heart, Mistaken, and the two Moons) and use three players to cover all the bases I needed for Firmament play. If play groups ended up doubling up on one or more roles, that would be cool; players would just share responsibilities. And there could be interesting situations or even short campaigns based around groups with lop-sided assortments of splats: all cartographers, for example.

However, what I’ve come to realize is that my three splats are, themselves, lop-sided. I’m really interested in cartographers (mapping the universe through dance and craft) and archaeologists (Indiana Jones meets Lovecraftian investigators). But I’m not that excited about astronomy and never really have been, because I haven’t figured out what’s cool about what astronomers do (talk to stars, do star magic) and how to clearly distinguish it from cartography (which involves plotting routes between stars). I generally think magic users in most fantasy settings suck, aside from some cool exceptions like Earthsea and the stuff Spice does in Dune. So I need to spend some time rethinking astronomy and how it should work, perhaps borrowing from the 4E starlight and feywild warlocks for ideas. It needs to be more dangerous and alien, I think, to match up in coolness to the other sciences.

I also need to get clearer on what the in-play responsibilities of the various splats are.

My sense is that archaeologists, who know the most about ancient human ruins, are responsible for setting up the terrestrial maps (maybe even battlemap or dungeon style, complete with squares) when the characters are exploring the surface of a planet or asteroid or moon or whatever. They don’t pre-plan these maps, but actually generate them through their checks for exploring and understanding the ruins. So a roll to peer through the darkness might generate, y’know, 6 squares of heiroglyphic-encrusted walls and the outer couple squares of an immense sarcophagus, which would be drawn on the map by the archaeologist.

Choreographers basically do the same thing for space, generating the various routes between stars and the stars that make them up. Like archeology, this happens as you travel, though some initial routes are generated during character creation. I’m much less clear on what astronomers should do, which is partially why they’re more problematic.

Also, I may or may not need someone to generate what the local human communities in the area are like, but those could also be generated collectively, though interactions. For example, you make a roll to find some traces of people, then you track those traces to the people who made them, and your rolls generate how many people there are. And the rolls you make to interact with those people generate their character traits: are they friendly or hostile, what skills do they have, etc.

Updated Priorities

August 21, 2008

Now that Geiger Beta is out, it’s time to take a break from that and give people some time to play it and make comments. Which means I can finally think about other things.

Dev recently said that he wants to play the Avatar game, which means I need to tweak it a bit. I might just end up blatantly stealing the fight mechanics from Mist-Robed Gate, because I think they’ll work mighty well. Then a few other tweaks and we’re off. The Avatar game still gets the most hits of anything on my website, so perhaps I should just release it through Bleeding Play in PDF form, once we playtest it a bunch more.

Push is definitely near the top of the list. I want to get the other articles from Push 1 up in HTML format on Bleeding Play, make the link to the PDF more prominent, type in the edits to her article that Em sent me months ago, and get Push 1 set up on Lulu so people can order print copies at cost. I also want to start getting some of the stuff from Push 2 up. Eero and Bill’s articles in particular are things I’ve been sitting on for many months. I just need to edit them, ask for a couple corrections from the authors, and post them up there.

Currently, it looks like Transantiago development may move to Secret Wars for a bit, since Shreyas has agreed to help me work on the passages from the rules that are supposed to be read aloud during play.

And then there’s Fingers on the Firmament, which I’ve been thinking about a ton and can’t wait to get to. Development-wise, I think it comes right after Transantiago, since Justin is still focused on getting the John Rain game done. It will rock some serious socks. Honestly, after playing 4th some more, I’m also interested in seeing the changes they’re coming out with for the GSL, on the outside chance that Firmament might be able to mine some of the better parts of the new edition. We’ll see.

Then, on the outside, things I still want to finish some day:
The Snow Queen

Back in the Firmament

April 23, 2008

After a long hiatus, I’m chipping away at Fingers on the Firmament again, this time with a new approach. Why is my game design inspiration never content to focus on one game at a time?

Brief Notes

April 3, 2008

Eric Pinnick ran Agon last night at SGBoston. It was glory-tastic, as usual. We had a jokester character named Fantasticles and that didn’t harm the vibe at all. How can you not love everything John Harper touches? The dude is magic.

Lukas Myhan sent me an email a few days back, saying:

I ran Geiger Counter at Gamestorm this weekend! Tentacled spider aliens thoroughly ravaged an asteroid mining facility, with only one survivor getting away in an escape pod. Reactions to the game from the people playing it were very positive.

Awesome. I can’t wait for the full writeup. Thanks, Lukas!

Also, my favorite used academic bookstore is moving closer to me and was having a moving sale (two great developments, together!) so I picked up this book on galactic structure from 1963. Seems like that should be accurate enough for Fingers on the Firmament. Also, ever since Fate, the core rules of Spirit of the Century, went OGL, I’ve been thinking about how much fun it would be to hack some bits of it onto the d20 OGL material for Firmament. I’m sure some other people have Fate20 hacks out there, though, so I wanna check those out first.

Finally, I’ve been pondering how to get the demons in Sorcémon to grow in power over time, like pocket monsters are supposed to, and I think the answer lies in Beast Hunters. As Nathan would say, “Niiiice!” Also, the mysterious woman is clearly Regina Sutton, the Demon Slayer. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that before.

Firmament Progress

November 12, 2007

I haven’t been posting as much here because the Firmament project is suddenly really active. I told Justin I want to have something worth playtesting by Dreamation and that’s beginning to look more and more possible. Check out my reworking of the core d20 attributes and the three “sciences” of Fingers on the Firmament (Astronomy, Cartography, Anthropology) into a chakra-like diagram:
This game is gonna be sick.

Those Who Tarry at the Door

November 4, 2007

In a further effort to consolidate all my past and present design work on this blog, I just posted my non-entry to Game Chef 2006, When the Forms Exhaust Their Variety. It is, without a doubt, the most Out There thing I’ve ever designed. The premise goes something like this:

    The game is for eight players, who, in the beginning, represent Those Who Tarry at the Door, a.k.a. The Petals of the World-Flower, a.ka. the eight doomed Bodhisattva. They are enlightened individuals who have chosen to return to the world of suffering even though the future age is near at hand. They will be trapped in the ashes of this world’s destruction and will not escape to enjoy the salvation of the Pure Land. They have made this sacrifice because they are the ones who must seek out Those Who Come in the Night, a.k.a. The Seeds of the Blossoming Flower, a.k.a. the eight emergant Buddha-to-be, who will, in their unity, bring about the next age.

I’ve promised Kevin Allen Jr. that I’ll finish this game one day. Interestingly enough, it’s recently been a strong influence on character classes in Firmament and the general feel of Transantiago.

I’ve been thinking about making Transantiago into a game I could publish. The name would probably have to change, because the Santiago public transportation system is the IP of the Santiago city government or the Chilean national government, but that’s okay. I’ve already started calling the full version of the game Lines in the Earth, at least in my head. And that version might incorporate a handful of mechanical and conceptual ideas from When The Forms Exhaust Their Variety to give the game additional structure and direction.

Everything Old is New Again

September 29, 2007

Turns out this is my week for digging out old projects and posting them. The Flower Revenge, which Paul Czege and Danielle apparently want me to turn into a comic, was just the tip of the iceberg.

Today I found and posted:

I’m going to try to dig up and post a bunch of other earlier stuff, since I want to do a better job of making One Thousand One into a repository of all my previous work and a place where I can come to synthesize earlier drafts of things into new, working versions.

Fingers Blog Live

September 13, 2007

The Fingers on the Firmament project is now serious enough to have its own blog, where Justin and I will throw down. All new posts about the project will happen there.

It also contains all the top secret brainstorming emails that we’ve traded, so there’s a bunch of new content for folks who are following along.