Thursday, February 23, 2017

Ending Iteration 5... and Beginning Iteration 6

I'm going to tell you what I should do.  I should take all of the stuff I've just given you, and then offer some worked examples.  For example, perhaps I could fully detail the Dun Beltain's homeworld, the World of Grist: I could show you the culture, the terrain, a few strange critters lurking in the bowels of the sewers, some of the races that frequent the world, etc.  Why not do that? Because if I'm going to do that, I might as well build the entire setting!

As always, when I end an iteration, I explain why we can just stop here, and Iteration 5 is no different.  With this iteration, I created the tools we need to build our own planets, organizations, cultures, etc, which means that if our players need to visit some Random New World, we can build one with a little bit of work.  There's no explicit need to create a cohesive setting, since we can just keep making up stuff as we go (which is precisely what I've been doing up until now).  After all, each piece can stand on its own.

But if I'm going to show you how to create a world, or an organization (say, the Empire), why not go all the way and make it official and part of my completed setting?  Setting elements might interrelate in some way (How does the history of Grist interact with the history of the setting?  How does it feel about the Empire?  Does it house sites sacred to a widespread faith?), and when building a setting, it's often easiest to create a great framework and then begin to plugin the holes.  If I'm going to think of the details of a specific world (its history and its religion and how it relates to the larger setting), I might as well go ahead and detail those other parts of the setting along with it. That's not the intention of Iteration 5, of course.  We should be able to get away with not doing that, but it kills two birds with one stone, and I'm beginning to tire of Psi-Wars.  I want to finish it sooner than later.  So, I'm going to do it this way.

Iteration 6 thus becomes Psi-Wars as a Specific Setting and doubles as "the playtest/worked example of Iteration 5."

Oh, and are you here for the downloads?  You can find them here (and in the Primer).  Note to my Patrons: This material includes the most up-to-date stuff, including your feedback.

Winding Up Iteration 5

What is there left to do?  Well, we didn't introduce enough mechanics to really allow a playtest.  Or, better said, we didn't create the sort of cohesive, vital system in need of careful balancing that requires a playtest.  There are a few bits we could probably playtest: How do the space monsters play, in practice? Probably on the weak side.  How well do the new social mechanics work? Probably not that much different from how Action already operates.  But for the most part, most of Iteration 5 is just a detailed discussion of how to conjure fluff with a few deeper forays into existing mechanics.  In principle, there's lots of things I could playtest but haven't, like the robot armies, or the commando template, or various warships, or various psionic styles.  That's because, in practice, I have only so much time and I want to hit the highlights (a "smoke test" as us programmers like to call them).  The material I have here isn't so vital to your game that if it breaks down, your game will break down (as opposed to psionic powers or spaceship combat).

All that's left, then, is to revise the documents, and put them in your hot little hands.

Knowing what to put in has been tricky.  I personally don't think a huge document full of articles on how to build setting bits is worthwhile, though if you disagree feel free to put it in the comments.  I think that GMs generally already have an idea of what their worlds are like,or will zip to specific articles if nosing around for inspiration.

What's far more interesting are the more specific mechanics, like:
  • The Officer Template
  • The Diplomat Template
  • The Con Artist Template
  • Expanded power-upgrades (the Magnate, the Conspirator, and a mess of tricks for the Frontier Marshal)
  • New Psionic Powers and revised talents to take advantage of ghosts
  • Rules for handling disease
  • Space Monsters!

Kicking Off Iteration 6: Psi-Wars as a Specific Setting

The point I’m trying to make is that published content is useful and interesting, but doing anything more than scratching the surface has consistently been hard for me, and I might not be alone in this.
-Brandes Stoddard, Tribal Knowledge
Confession time: I've been looking forward to this Iteration ever since I started writing Psi-Wars.  I have an old draft from December of 2015 where I already began sketching out details.  Thus, forgive me if I'm a little impatient to begin! Normally, I'd wait until next week to kick off the Iteration, but why waste time?  The two iterations strongly correlate with one another, so let's just get straight to it.

Over on Discord, I occasionally get a question as to whether or not I intend to keep Psi-Wars "generic." The answer is "No, not at all!"  I have a very specific, very non-Star Wars setting in mind.  The problem with having a specific setting in mind is that the more specific my setting gets, the narrower my target audience must become.  Most of you reading this will never use Psi-Wars straight out of the box and have no interest in what I specifically find interesting.  You're here for campaign creation, or alternate tech rules, or thoughtful articles, or for building your own not-Star Wars campaign.  Some of you are here just to play my Psi-Wars, but I expect you're a minority (though I love you to pieces). Thus, I've put off a detailed setting as long as I could (which isn't to say that I haven't been thinking about it: One of my very first drafts detailed setting material!).  I want my articles to remain as useful to as many of you as possible for as long as possible.

I can get around this problem by making Iteration 6 about creating your own setting, which is why I did Iteration 5 first.  It gave us the pieces to build our setting, and now we'll just put those pieces together, discuss the how and why of what I'm doing, and the finished result, which will go into a document is just for those who want the Psi-Wars setting.  Those who just like reading about campaign creation will have what they need to get started.

Iteration 6 probably won't include any major rule changes (I've been largely satisfied with my rules since Iteration 4), but it should result in a completely new setting document.  The iteration itself will consist of "mini-iterations," starting with me detailing the setting in broad strokes, then going deeper on various elements to expand them out, and then going even deeper to give a complete look at a particular element.  Once it's all done, then we'll stitch everything together so we have a complete, cohesive setting.

And that should largely finish Psi-Wars.  I'll see where I am when Iteration 6 finishes (I expect it to be a lengthy process, probably on par with Iteration 4), but we might look into an Iteration 7, where I put some adventures together, which will make a nice "final playtest" of the complete framework.

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