Archive for the The Book of Threes Category

What’s a Paradigm? And why is it shifting?

Posted in Projects, RPGs, The Book of Threes on October 23, 2010 by Jeff Russell

Okay, so, despite the continuing blog silence, I have been thinking very hard about The Book of Threes for the past couple weeks, and doing lots of “research” (in other words, reading RPGs that I’d love to get to play, and actually getting some gaming in for once!).

I can tell you right now that the rules as they currently exist are not long for this world. Well, that’s not true. I’ll keep them up as a painful reminder of my first awkward foray into full game design, and in case anyone finds some ideas to milk out of it. I do really like the complex interactions of the three resources and their values as static and dynamic values and that each has multiple game mechanical consequences. I think there’s some interesting “game” there. Hell, they might end up in the Roman social-oriented game I was considering when I first came up with the seed of an idea for three resources as the core of a game.


I am working on a near-complete revision. Like, I’m gonna completely rewrite because the changes will be so significant. Here’s a rundown of what I plan to keep, and what I plan to change, with some cues to the directions I’m going in (as of right now! This is all still nebulous!)

  • Stuff I’m keeping
  1. The core concept. This will still be a mythic-heroic game inspired by Celtic and Germanic myth predominantly revolving around a clan with lots of setting creation/customization
  2. Grudges. For sure. They may function differently, but you will gain mechanical bonuses against people that have shamed/defeated/otherwise besmirched you
  3. Oaths. Again, they may work differently, but this is a fundamental concept.
  4. Conflicting goals between your family, clan, and yourself
  • Stuff I’m changing
  1. The core resolution. Like, totally and completely different. Probably moving to a single die dice pool thing, very likely based on counting 4+’s as ‘hits’ and 3-‘s as ‘misses’
  2. Related to the above, the way characters are created, what their attributes are, et cetera
  3. The three resources. Some of the elements here will remain, there may even still be 3 when I’m done, but they will be very different, and link into whatever the new resolution mechanic is
  4. Clan creation is getting rolled up into character creation, and the whole process will be waaaaay briefer and more focused on interesting starting situation
  5. The awful, terrible GM advice will be rewritten as actual rules and procedure for the GM

If you are interested in getting some ideas of where I’m going and what’s influencing me at the moment, check out Lady Blackbird, Burning Wheel, and Apocalypse World, in roughly descending order of importance to what I think the new conflict resolution will look like. Check out the Smallville RPG for a big influence on my current thoughts on character creation (with a healthy dose of Lady Blackbird and Burning Wheel as well).

I plan to have the conflict resolution thing in a workable, tweakable format this week, maybe by the end of this weekend, with everything else up in the air until I figure out ways to make it interact with that.

Book of Threes Revision Sneak Preview

Posted in Projects, RPGs, The Book of Threes on September 2, 2010 by Jeff Russell

Well, it’s amazing how much having a real, face-to-face conversation can do for a design. Despite my lack of discernible activity here on the bloog, the gears they are a-churnin, I’m doing thinking and reading and what not that are all informing where I’m going.

But! To keep this from being a totally content free “don’t go away!” sort of post, here’s a sneak preview of what I’m thinking about right now. I really like the three resources and their interactions. I really like grudges and their interaction with loyalty points. I really like how teamwork focused the conflict resolution is. On the other hand, I do *not* currently really like the conflict resolution rules themselves. I think they need a massive overhaul of some sort. For one thing, they were written when I was all high on In a Wicked Age and Dogs in the Vineyard, without realizing a) exactly why and how they worked the way they did, b) Vincent Baker has since said he’s not totally happy with In a Wicked Age’s mechanics, and c) that these games are no longer the “state of the art” in RPG design. So, I’m fitting these influences into a wider context, and also re-examining the rules with a better and deeper understanding of what I want them to do.

The main issue, as I see it, is one discussed by Vincent Baker in a recent interview and also on his blog (over there in the sidebar, “anyway.”). That issue is when the rules and the fiction fail to interlock properly. Now, roleplayers have a long history of compensating for imperfect reinforcement of rules by fiction and vice versa, but I’ve become convinced that a well designed game will make those elements necessarily interact, not just so that they can interact. I took some steps to do this in my first draft of the conflict resolution rules, but I think I’ll be able to do it better now. I’m not sure how, yet, so suggestions are welcome, but that’s what I’m working on in my brain and notebooks.

Book of Threes Best Interests

Posted in Projects, RPGs, The Book of Threes on August 18, 2010 by Jeff Russell

So, I had a brainwave on how to make “Best Interests” have a little more teeth (and only after writing it down did I realize it’s a solution pretty close to the Burning Wheel system I’m finally getting around to reading).

Not only will it give the best interests more mechanical weight, it will (hopefully) increase the tension of choosing between differing interests. Here’s my thought: you’ve got three best interests (individual, family, and clan) and three resources. So completing interests gives you points in a resource!

The run down (until testing makes me decide to do otherwise) is that fulfilling a clan best interest gives you a wealth point, fulfilling a family interest gives you a loyalty point from one of your family members, and fulfilling an individual best interest gives you a glory point. I’m afraid that the family interest may be getting the short end of the stick here, as the loyalty points with your family members will only come up if you try to get them to help you out in conflicts, but hopefully that will come up in play.

I’m also not positive on how to judge interests “fulfilled” but since all interests are player generated, I’m thinking the GM decides when they’re fulfilled. This is part of a general swing back towards more GM authority that I’m thinking will happen having considered the game  more recently, since I was all high on hippie authority sharing as a brand new concept to me when I wrote the first draft of the game.

I need to give the whole system a good once over before I get the chance to do some real live, in person playtesting sometime in the next month. I am very excite.

Book of Threes Alpha Test Recap

Posted in Projects, RPGs, The Book of Threes on July 11, 2010 by Jeff Russell

Okay, sorry this was a bit later than forecasted, but I wanted to collect some thoughts from the first playtest of “The Book of Threes” done on Google Wave.

First off, it taught me a lot about Google Wave, and while I think it’s far superior to a standard forum for RPGs, it still has some shortcomings compared to ‘the real thing’ of sitting at a table with your friends and talking it out in person. That being said, I’m currently participating in 3 Google Wave RPGs, so I would still recommend it if you’re hungry for gaming and the internet is your only outlet.

In the case of Bo3s though, it created some issues with the clan creation section (the only part we did). Turn taking is awkward in an ansynchronous environment where ‘order’ is arbitrary. Also, different people updating at different speeds created a disparity of expectations in how quickly to post. But I’d say the big thing that hurt the clan creation process is that a lot of the back and forth collaborative stuff that would be happening in person was constrained in the online format, making each person’s contribution more self-contained and final, rather than being malleable to fit in with the overall creative vision, which is what the clan creation process was supposed to foster.

On that note, the clan creation rules are too lengthy. I got so caught up in worrying that there would be enough material for a compelling situation off the bat that I forgot my whole inspiration of “In a Wicked Age” and my desire for the setting to come out in play. I think what I will do is make a *much* shorter clan creation process as the standard, and then offer an optional detailed clan creation process for people who really want to flesh out the world before they step into it or to refer to when things come up in play (for example: “I dunno guys, what is the neighboring clan like? You tell me, or roll on this table here”).

Another point about the creation rules that my friend Adam pointed out is that certain aspects of it (like one player naming a type of community and another player fleshing it out) made the whole collaborative process be *too* collaborative. Individual players didn’t feel like they had ‘ownership’ of anything, and maybe other players took what would have been an idea that got them fired up and went in a totally different direction. My goal was to force the players to accommodate each other’s points of interest and to create a world that everyone had buy in with, but I think that I shared out the ownership too much.

One solution to that problem can be gleaned from Archipelago II by Matthjis Holter. This is a great game that I’d love to give playing a try, but reading through it really opened my eyes to some different ways to approach RPG design. And you can get it for free at that link! Seriously worth checking out. At any rate, in it there is the concept of ‘ownership’ since there is not a traditional GM. One player is given authority over an aspect of the game world (like ‘geography’ or ‘religion’ – typically things the group decides will be important to the game) and anybody can suggest things about the world, but the player with ownership can veto ideas relating to his domain.

So, let’s say you have authority over ‘geography’ and I’m like “Man, there are these giant floating mountains, with like plants and stuff growing between them”. You could go “Floating mountains? I don’t think so, all of the terrain has been really harsh and mundane, so let’s not do that. How about some normal jungle mountains that go up really high?”

I think a few areas of ownership, or at least the concept that certain things are ‘owned’ by certain players might go a long way towards supporting buy-in to the collaborative creative process. So, maybe each player gets final say over details about their family members (even if the GM gets to control their actions in play) and one guy gets to detail the religion of teh clan, and another guy gets to have authority over the crafts (or whatever). I’m gonna poke around with these ideas and streamline the clan creation process in a lot of other ways. I’ll probably look at character creation again, since I realized taht most of the ‘initial situation’ generation happens from the Character creation already, so I may fine tune that and make the clan creation a subtle background.

A Quick Playtest Update

Posted in Projects, RPGs, The Book of Threes on May 24, 2010 by Jeff Russell

So, the online playtest has kicked off and been going strong for a little over a week, and I thought I’d give a progress report. We’re still in the clan creation phase, but it’s working out well. I was afraid that the online format might kill some of the collaborative goodness of the group setting crafting, but so far we’ve had lots of that nonetheless, which is really encouraging. Everybody’s different ideas are inspiring and spinning off everybody else’s, so I couldn’t be happier so far.

In a similar vein, Google Wave is really useful for online RPGs. I’m totally sold. In addition to running this playtest, I’m playing in a friend’s Big Eyes Small Mouth game, and it’s going along swimmingly, even with jumping right into a combat scene. It tailors nicely to a variety of time frames for update availability, and easily supports people jumping in with contributions to different portions (the ‘nested reply’ option, which allows you to reply directly to a specific message in a wave, is particularly good for this).

After some more experience with both games, I’ll probably post my thoughts on using Wave for online games, with some recommendations and such like, but for now, I say go for it if you have any desire to play traditional RPGs online.

Online Playtest

Posted in Projects, RPGs, The Book of Threes on May 15, 2010 by Jeff Russell

So, with the revised conflict resolution rules settled as a starting point, I think it’s time to take the leap and start playtesting. But my current environment is barren not only in water, but also gamers.

So I’m going to give Google Wave a try for an online playtest of “The Book of Threes”. If you’re interested in participating, comment here or email me, and I’ll set you up with a Wave account invite. I’m hoping to get the clan and character creation process kicked off sometime next week, depending on how quickly I can get together 4 or 5 folks.

If you have any questions about what would be involved, how the online thing would work, or whatever, let me know.

Revised Conflict Resolution

Posted in Projects, RPGs, The Book of Threes on May 15, 2010 by Jeff Russell

Well, after thinking about the issues raised in Conflict Resolution Conflict, I’ve come to what I think is a workable starting point for moving forward with the core resolution rules for “The Book of Threes”.

I decided to go with letting both sides put forward a set number of dice, and for that number to be equal to the leader’s current Wealth score. This gives wealth something to do as a static value, and ties it directly into conflict resolution, so now all three resources have something to do in conflict.

You can find the revised conflict resolution rules here: Revised Conflict Resolution

ed: the main playtest document now contains this updated section in place of the old one. It was crap anyway. But I’ve left this separate document up for easier reference of the first major change since posting the rules.