2012-02-22 : Aw Heck With It

Codename: Llama Flames II
Internal playtest document stages 1&2

T minus 3...

1. On 2012-02-22, Meguey said:

I wondered how soon this was going to show up :)


2. On 2012-02-23, Vincent said:

T minus 2.


3. On 2012-02-23, Evan Torner said:

Just add water.


4. On 2012-02-24, Vincent said:

T minus 1.


5. On 2012-02-24, Jaywalt said:

Are there tigers involved?


6. On 2012-02-24, Vincent said:

Not this time, although that day is certainly coming, except they may be deinonychus by then.

This one features a dragon!


7. On 2012-02-25, Vincent said:

Oh by the way the first internal playtest of stage 1 went very well. We created Xivak the Whisperer, Daughter of Misfortune. She may or may not be able to kill you by looking at you, and she certainly does poison the water wherever she rests.


8. On 2012-02-25, Meguey said:

Also, she is terrifying.


9. On 2012-02-26, Vincent said:

It's T o'clock and I'm happy.

Let's say: stage 3 in 10.


10. On 2012-02-26, Keith said:

Which stage is the one where we get to try it? Because this sounds good.


11. On 2012-02-26, Ville Halonen said:

Oh, you T-se.


12. On 2012-02-27, Paul T. said:

Man, I don't even know what Llama Flames 1 was all about. I feel behind the times!


13. On 2012-02-27, Vincent said:

Llama Flames 1 is Murderous Ghosts. "Llama Flames" is just my silly code name for "Trauma Games."

This game's real name is "Trauma Games presents: The Dragon."

It's a 3-stage game. I've got the internal playtest document done for stages 1 and 2, and we've successfully tested stage 1. Now I'm counting down to the internal playtest document for stage 3, which is the big one.

T minus 9 for that.

Once I've done internal testing of all 3 stages, if the game survives, then I'll make an external playtesting document and go into external playtesting. I estimate that it'll be in May or something.

So, Paul: you're not behind the times! You're ahead. You know about it before it's even real.


14. On 2012-02-27, Keith said:

Is it in three stages the way Storming the Wizard's Tower was in three stages? Or is that jargon for something else?


15. On 2012-02-27, Vincent said:

Ah! Not much like Storming the Wizard's Tower, no.

The game plays through, beginning to end, in about 2 hours, divided into 3 stages. The first stage is the night before the encounter, and takes about half an hour in play. The second stage is approaching the dragon's lair, and takes about 15 minutes. The third stage is the encounter itself and takes the rest of the time.


16. On 2012-02-28, Keith said:


Is this a hack, too, of AW, the way Murderous Ghosts was? Or is it an independent rule set?


17. On 2012-02-28, Vincent said:

A hack! Probably not quite as extensive a hack as Murderous Ghosts, but maybe.


18. On 2012-02-29, John Mc said:

MG was a hack of AW?  Really?


19. On 2012-02-29, Vincent said:

Really! You can't see it?


20. On 2012-02-29, Tim Ralphs said:

Oh, I'd like to read more about that particular.


21. On 2012-02-29, Marhault said:

John: TGP:MG, for crying out loud!  Mouse Guard is safe from the "AW hack" label!

I haven't read Murderous Ghosts but... well, I have a hard time seeing it too, Vincent.  I'd love to hear an explanation as well.


22. On 2012-02-29, Paul T. said:

Murderous Ghosts is totally an AW hack.

Here's how I see it:

* Discard all the Color of AW (post-apocalypse, guns, psychic maelstrom, etc), replace with haunted urban spelunker vibe.

* Limit to two players.

* Modify mechanic to use cards instead of dice. (But same idea, you can have a total fail, a total success, or a partial success in the mid-range, where you pick one of several options and basically get what you want but not fully.

* The booklets tell you how and when to "take turns talking".

* When it's the GM's turn, the booklet tells the GM which "move" to make. The GM just misdirects and barfs forth, and all that. Instead of "what do you do", she just tells the player to "turn to page X".

* On the player's turn, the player decides which move to make in return. He can ask questions to get more information, but eventually has to make a decision and make a move (which usually involves drawing cards, but not always).

So it's like Apocalypse World, except the booklets tell both players which moves to make the whole way through. "The ghost is hovering in the corner. Do you want to go aggro on it? (Turn to page XX.) Or do you want to run away? (Turn to page Y." And then "page Y" says, "You're trying to run away, which means you're acting under fire! Draw some cards."

Like that. Pretty straight-up hack, it seems to me.


23. On 2012-03-01, Vincent said:

I endorse Paul's explanation in every particular.

Followup questions and observations always welcome!


24. On 2012-03-01, Keith said:

Have you talked about Trauma Games elsewhere? I'd hate to be redundant, if you've already answered questions there. Would it be okay to ask some questions about TG?

More local: Does this fancy new dragon game also use cards, like MG?


25. On 2012-03-02, Vincent said:

Ask away!

Probably dice.


26. On 2012-03-02, Keith said:

Okay, so, like, a bunch of questions:

1) What's the mission plan for Trauma Games? Just to make little quickie two player games (which is awesome, by the way)?

2) Why'd you decide to do these, did something provoke it? Or just because you thought it'd be neat?

3) Talking about the concepts here, not TG themselves: is there a reason you took these ideas (evil murdering ghosts, fighting dragons, what have you) and decided to publish them as a short mini-game instead of branching them out into larger games?

4) Does the name Trauma Games hold any special significance?


27. On 2012-03-05, John Mc said:

Fascinating!  This begs the question for me, what defines a "hack"?

I can see what you're saying Paul, but Murderous Ghosts feels like a massive hack.  So much got stripped away that you're left largely with "Barf Forth" and "Choose from a list".  When I read it I didn't think "AW hack", I thought "Vincent sure likes those bits in his game design.  It's interesting how he's using them in this game."  Hell, everyone knows Vincent loves lists.  ;)

Course I believe you guys that it's a hack, it just raises the question for me: What is a hack?  How is it distinct from a new game with elements common to other games in a designer's oeuvre?

Put another way, is Apocalypse World a Rock of Tahamaat, Space Tyrant hack?


28. On 2012-03-05, Vincent said:

If anybody's keeping score at home, I've totally set this project aside for other biz. I'll get back to it soon.


1 & 4) Trauma games, let's say, are games where violent trauma to the PCs is a big part of the fun. Sitting down to play one is like sitting down to watch a horror flick: you should expect blood guts gore and fear. You should be looking forward to it!

It seems pretty likely to me that most trauma games are and will be quick-playing. When the idea is to throw the PCs into the meat grinder, for reals, I can't see many long-running games.

Trauma Games isn't a thing, like it's not an imprint or a game line or anything. "Trauma Games presents:" is just part of these couple games' titles. If anybody else feels like making a trauma game and calling it "Trauma Games presents: Oh My God the Volcano is Erupting!" or whatever, they totally should.

3) The reason is exactly this "trauma game" thing. I don't want to make bigger games out of them because I want to make a game where the whole point is, ghosts are going to murder you unless you can escape! I want to make a game where the whole point is, so you think you can kill a dragon? Good luck, brother! There's nothing else to these games, nothing larger they should branch into.

2) Ah, yes, something provoked it. I'm not quite ready to tell the story in public yet. Next time you see me, get a beer with me and I'll tell you in person.


It's a good question. It's not a formal term, so ultimately we can use it however we want, but yeah, I do see a much closer design relationship between Murderous Ghosts and Apocalypse World than between Apocalypse World and Rock of Tahamaat. I'm not sure I can explain why.


29. On 2012-03-05, Vincent said:

Ah, here's a thing I can say.

When I designed Apocalypse World, I started from principles. I took Rock of Tahamaat, yes, plus Dogs in the Vineyard, plus all the other games I've made, plus all the games I've played, stripped them down to their shared foundation, and built up to Apocalypse World.

The first playtests of Apocalypse World looked like an infantile, half-formed, embryonic version of Apocalypse World.

When I designed Murderous Ghosts, I started from Apocalypse World. I stripped it down not to its foundation, but to where Murderous Ghosts had to start. If that makes any sense. Then I built back up, along a different branch*, to Murderous Ghosts.

The first playtests of Murderous Ghosts looked like a gutted, ill-fitting, repurposed version of Apocalypse World, not like an embryonic version of Murderous Ghosts.

So that's a difference in my design processes for the two games. I believe that the closer process relationship between Murderous Ghosts and Apocalypse World survives in gameplay, too.

Holy crap! I have no idea if any of that made the least bit of sense. Somebody ask me followup questions.

* Also, sorry for mixing my metaphors there.


30. On 2012-03-05, John Mc said:

That makes perfect sense to me.  In fact I was suspecting something along those lines.  Thanks!


31. On 2012-03-06, Paul T. said:

I already posted my bit, but basically I see Murderous Ghosts as an Apocalypse World "module". It's for two players, and each page tells each which move to make and how (but the moves are pretty much straight-up AW moves, including stuff like "ask provocative questions").

Plus the mechanic is almost exactly the same, just using cards instead of dice.

It's kind of like training wheels for Apocalypse World, in a way.


32. On 2012-03-06, David Berg said:

Vincent, what does your "strip other game(s) down" process look like?

When you say "started from principles", are you talking about the logic guiding the stripping down, or the result of the stripping down, or something else?


33. On 2012-03-06, Keith said:

Why strip down Apocalypse World into other games? Why not invent a brand new system for this new games, instead of hacks? I guess what I'm asking is: what is it about the AW ruleset that you feel is so adaptable to so many different endeavors?


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