Phew, hectic few weeks. I’d better write some of it down before I forget.
First of all, back towards the beginning of the month, I went to Oxford to meet up with secretrebel and run our Upstairs//Downstairs game together. This was for the group of players (lanfykins, mr_snips, onebyone, smiorgan and triskellian) who had been intended as the first run, but we got to run it at a con beforehand. So just as the first run had been the first time I’d ever co-GMed a tabletop game, this was the second time for that and also the first time I’d ever re-run a tabletop game. Exciting new experiences! It was quite interesting that the game turned out rather differently – the climax was very different, and much of the way they got there was too. Fortunately we had prepared for a range of possibilities! Co-GMing was interesting too: I think we made a pretty reasonable team, both in the writing/design and on the day(s). We seemed to have pretty similar ideas of what we wanted the game to be like, but very different ones about how to realize that. So that was a good bit of learning.
And the day after, Cat came to visit, to do some design on our game The Outsiders which is running at Consequences. I think we both felt that last year’s game we wrote together, Reading Between the Lines, while it was fun and the players mostly seemed to enjoy it, didn’t quite accomplish what we’d intended: in that we’d wanted it to be more about character experience and development than about plots, but it ended up not that much so. Then at Peaky we were both part of writing What Happened in Blackpool, which looked at workshop and player-empowerment techniques, and again was fun and seemed mostly enjoyed. So The Outsiders is I guess in a sense combining aspects of both of those design drives. It will be workshopped and player-empowered; and it will be pretty much all about character and hardly at all about plot. We want players to feel genuine emotional experiences in the game in themselves as well as their characters, which is not that common a design aim in UK freeform. (We try to avoid using the dreaded N-word, because it has some unhelpful connotations, but it would be hard to deny that what we’re writing is pretty similar to a Nordic type of game.) Anyway, we shall see: signups for the games open soon, and it may be that no-one’ll want to play it, on the basis of the slightly offputting blurbs we’ve managed to write…
I skipped out for most of Sunday to attend the Playtest meetup in London, which was great as always. I took along a new 2-player game Caterwaul, about gangs of rival cats, which I wrote about the idea here ages ago but only recently got around to making. It went over pretty well, although there were lots of good suggestions for how to make it more playable and less niggly and frustrating (which it was a bit, in places). I also took Hands Up!, the new microgame also mentioned here, but didn’t get to test it, as I came home earlier than usual to spend more time with the olds! It has had a few outings locally, though, and I’m cautiously optimistic that it’ll grow into something worth playing.
And, oh yes, on that note, Shape Up! (discussed here passim) has now been puublished! By Good Little Games, which I’m pretty chuffed about as the other designers published there are really good. And I got some terrific design advice from editor Brett – not about the game design, which has been fixed for a while now, but about the iconic design of the cards. I thought these were already pretty decent, but his suggestions have improved it all considerably. He also completely rewrote the rules! Anyway, you can download the ‘official’ version from there. Being me, I also now have a non-official version which has more cards and allows for up to 4 players. I’ll put that up as a PDF on my own (UKG) site some time.