Deeply Struggling With My Game

Crossposted to the Forge.

Almost a year ago,  I had the same doubts I am now experiencing.  In the past year, my system has crawled along.  I’ve worked on it, but it doesn’t feel like it’s any closer to being finished than it was a year ago.

The question that eats away at me, that ate away at me then, was Is My Game Worth Writing?  See, Warriors is a reaction to my play of Exalted and Weapons of the Gods (and to a lesser extent Qin), which left me disatisfied with the kung fu action.  I wanted a tactical game that really felt crisp and fun to play.  I still want this.  I am not sure if I have the tools to write it.

Here were my design goals a year ago:

*Have lots of cool special powers.

*Have tactical and engaging combats.

*Compel the players to action.

*Result in dramatic play.

*Be easy on the GM, as far as prep time is concerned.

*Feel like awesome Kung Fu wuxia action.

None of these has changed.  There are some unspoken goals- “focus on the players,” for example- but there was also a big big one that I didn’t write down.  I wanted to make one of the best (perhaps definitive) gamist games out there.  There wasn’t a lot available at the time that really hummed along.  (There was John Harper’s Agon, but it was a very different experience.)  I wanted to use indie-techniques to design a gamist game.

Now 4th Edition D&D is out.

It’s not Wuxia, and the mechanics are pretty different than what I had in mind, but it’s providing the same core gaming experience I was trying to create.  It nails pretty much all my design goals except the genre one.

So, here’s my questions-

Those of you who are at least passingly familiar with the work I’m doing on my game- am I writing a Wuxia heartbreaker?  Or is this just self-doubt?  Is the game as is worth writing?

The game, as currently envisioned, is supposed to feature lists of talents and kung fu techniques, which are essentially feats and powers.  When I try to write these, I am paralyzed with dread and fear.  I can brainstorm them all day at work, jot down ideas in my pad, but when I sit down at the computer, I can’t make the ideas go.  Everything seems redundant and pointless.  How do I cope with that?  How do I write the massive game that I want?

And here’s just a blanket question:  What can I do to get out of this slump?

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5 thoughts on “Deeply Struggling With My Game

  1. Linnaeus says:

    While it’s far from the only test, one question that comes to mind is, does the system rely on a physical representation of the combat space (that is, map and minis, or the like) to generate the tactical elements?

    If not, then I say “hell yeah it’s worthwhile!” A tactical game that is half as interesting as 4e that does not depend on the tabletop minis aspect would draw me like a moth to a flame.

  2. Willow says:

    It is much more freeform than D&D.

    A combat area is divided into zones. So a fight at the evil emperor’s palace might have the throne room as a zone, the courtyard as a zone, the princess’s chamber as a zone, and hallways between those various places as a zone. Your character is only in one zone at a time, and can attack anyone in the same zone.

    Usually these combat spaces are scribbled onto a piece of notebook paper. There are ‘minis’ for the character, but in practice these tend to be tokens, dice, etc.

  3. I have the exact same problem when it comes to that exact same thing. Ideas for kewl powerz and mechanics are a lot easier to jot down when I should be doing something else. When I get home, it seems so much less worthwhile to spend time on- especially since everyone and their brother has already done that sort of thing to death.

    So, I always eventually scrap the lists and try to boil all the fat off the essential mechanics so that players can basically write their own schticks.

    Which is just as difficult, really, but in a completely different way.

    So, maybe that’s helpful and maybe it’s not.

    Have you checked out Jeffrey Shechter’s Pagoda from the No-Press RPG Anthology? I don’t think it’s quite what you’re after, but it is a cool wuxia game, and it never hurts to know what else has been done in the target genre.

    In my own halting attempts to address the kung-fu game that FEELS like kung-fu should, I always end up coming back to the interactions of Styles and Techniques- because My Golden Monkey’s Paw is Unstoppable! Until of course the opponent learns Immortal Thunder Lizard style from the old hermit in the woods… etc. etc.

    Anyway, hope you get past the block eventually.

  4. James Krot says:

    I had the same problem when I wrote 20 page document for my magic system for heroes. I wanted to make it cool and interesting and keep all the neat stuff but make enough powers so that people didn’t need to make their own even though I had a way of explaining how to make powers in my subsystem of magic.

    I ended up making 80 some cleric spells, and 110 wizard spells. I went to a 15 level system of magic. Most of my powers were not in the Grimore that Hero system came out with their because alot of my games focused on 75 point to 250 point characters. Once a fantasy hero character made it to 250 they were basically a epic char and was retired.

    For about 15 months of effort it was used in 1 game over a 3 year period. I still have a print out of it but because of a computer failure I no longer have the word document.

    Did I get alot of replay out of it no, did I have alot of fun making it and watching my players use it, hell ya.

    If it isn’t fun for you to work on then don’t work on it because you aren’t in the right frame of mind. If you don’t have fun making it how can you expect to have fun playing it.

  5. Okay… For me, getting re-jazzed about a game I’m designing requires that I go talk to other people, get feedback and have people tell me that this part is cool, or that they’d do something different, or that this sucks… It helps me clarify to myself what I want out of the game (especially when someone says – you outta do this, and I find myself thinking – no way, that’s not what I want!).

    For the lists of kewl powerz, I’d second Dave… give it to the players (and playtesters if you’re willing to let your baby out into the wild). Show ’em the basics for making the powerz, and turn them loose. Pretty soon you’ll have page after page of stuff you’d never have thought of yourself (Your Diamond Weaving Hand Kung Fu is no match for my Peerless Soaring Phoenix Technique!)

    Hope some of this helps!

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