The raw stuff of magic exists in a separate realm from the main, material reality and is channelled into the reality and made manifest by various forms of practice. At its base magic is the source of everything, every rock, every tree is just a material expression of magic. The same way a sphere passing through a two-dimensional plane manifests as a growing and shrinking circle. Magic is brought through and made into things – effects, items, fireballs and so on – by patterns of speech, gesture, writing, patterns and other configurations. Raw magic rarely makes it through to the real world, and so it is rare, mystical and valuable…
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I keep ideas everywhere, on scratch paper, in computer text documents, on my phone, in videos or audio files I’ve made where I’m rambling about game design. I set them as reminders in my phone for days and weeks to come to make sure my memory is jolted semi-randomly by them.
I get more ideas than I know what to do with, which can become rather frustrating. I’ve probably forgotten more game ideas than I’ve produced to completion.
Fantasy worlds, or at least the interesting ones, are full of monsters, megafauna, hostile tribes, peoples and humanoids and – in this setting – mutated and twisted lands and creatures on top of that. So, travel is – putting it mildly – incredibly unsafe. The consequence of this is that cities are fortresses – as much or more than in the real world – and only well-plied and well-patrolled roads are truly safe. This is an idea I have used before, and only seems sensible in most fantasy worlds in games that I’ve ever read or played in, but is rarely implemented. It’s an idea almost as old as my independent RPG career, first showing up in Cloak of Steel and cemented by a viewing of Attack on Titan…
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It’s very hard to get playtesters for anything. It’s hard to get the attention in the first place, then to find people willing to playtest the game, then getting those people to actually play it and then getting them to give useful feedback. So many people are wedded to one system or one campaign that it can be virtually impossible.
I get playtesting done as best I can, simulating scenarios by myself to test out different aspects of the game with different characters. Like editing your own work, this is tricky, as you know exactly what you meant and don’t necessarily see the errors. For similar reason, playing with your regular group is helpful, but not likely to be hugely helpful.
One of the boons of producing material electronically is that it is relatively easy to update it later on, to ‘patch the game on the fly’. It’s annoying when computer games companies do this by not releasing a complete product, but it is useful from a game designer’s perspective when you find things that need correcting.
So, most of the time, no playtesters. I wish it were otherwise, but it’s just not that practical for a small, indie company.
The main and obvious split in the politics of the world I’m describing is between the revolutionary and expansionist Comity and the various monarchical nations that remain, as well as the thaumatocracies (magic rules)of the remaining Philosopher Kings. Being a fantasy setting, with many different races and peoples and large an dangerous monsters, there’s plenty of scope for other groups and forces acting on a smaller level and for wilderness, since most of civilisation will be fortress-farms and walled cities…
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One of the strengths of Machinations of the Space Princess was its wide open capability to create any kind of character – and also monster – that you wanted to. While there will be many of the usual fantasy staples, goblins, orcs and so forth, I want to give them my own spin. At the same time, the history that I have sketched out gives the opportunity for all manner of magical crossbreeds, mutations and strangeness…
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I don’t know that there is one particularly. There’s bits and pieces of all kinds of games but there’s no single game that I can point to. This is a bit like asking about influences again. Game design is also not purely mechanical, but can reflect aesthetics, goals, mood and so on.
Best answer I can give is my most played and openly influential games that I’ve done.
- Middle Earth Roleplaying
- Dragon Warriors
- Cyberpunk 2020
- Vampire: The Masquerade
- Mage: The Ascension
- Mind’s Eye Theatre
- Iron Kingdoms
- Lamentations of the Flame Princess