Saturday, January 16, 2016


I want to talk a bit about my own Ogre Gate campaigns and how these fueled the creation of the game itself (as well as its future direction).

Maps like this...
With every release we have been slowing down our process more and more to allow for better quality releases. We deliberately gave ourselves a long period to develop the Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate system and setting. This basically means there is almost no distinction in my own mind between my personal campaigns and the content of the rulebook. For the process to work, those had to be aligned as closely as possible. However I also needed space to try the setting with different groups of players. So the approach I took was one of a multiverse where each play group occupied a different universe. Occasionally when the parties intersected in a similar time or place, there is a ripple effect between them.

As a result I've amassed material in different notebooks: one central book for all campaigns and several smaller binders for individual groups. Because I know much of it is going to end up in Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate books, I tend to prepare very carefully and with an eye toward having it all organized toward that end. That means I write most things out the way I write them for publication and make my maps knowing I will need to hand them to an artist at some point. That allows me to playtest the material as thoroughly as possible. It also means that me and my players have seen the system itself in action over a long period of time.

...become maps like this...
I think the last bit is very important and it is why we don't release games as quickly as we used to (those who have been fans since Terror Network probably recall when we'd release new games every six months to a year, as well as regular supplements). That approach makes good business sense, but it wasn't enough time to run a system and setting material through the ringer the way players are going to do once they buy the game. I really started noticing this about the time we started working on Horror Show. So we made a conscious choice to spread out releases more, giving ourselves more time to playtest in longer campaigns.

There are different ways to playtest. One is the individual, focused playtest (where you test out specific mechanics, scenarios, etc). These are good when you are putting stuff together or when you need to test specific rules. But they don't give you as much information as a full length campaign. Things come up differently when there is more context, history and the stakes are higher. That is why I find more value in running systems over the course of longer campaigns during and after development.

You still won't have perfection that way. Even with focused and campaign playtests, you can miss things or not see certain problems and potential combinations clearly. But you get a much better sense of how the game plays and where it needs to be improved. You also are more apt to see where ideas that look great on paper or in theory, just don't pan out (this is why my Grudge Rules went through about four iterations before they reached the final state).

...and this
For me the bottom line is, if you aren't running the game yourself regularly, you can't really comment on it with any degree of real insight and it is hard to make a final ruleset that works over the long haul. It is definitely important to get input from play testers beyond your immediate group, but you have to be able to run the game at your table in a style that fits your own, or it loses that personal connection where you really understand how it works.

As an example, in Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate we had techniques that felt too powerful in focused scenarios so they were flagged. However we found that in a full length campaign their utility was often more situation-dependent. More importantly we learned that it was actually a good thing to have some techniques that are a bit more powerful than the others in a wuxia setting. If you think about the old martial arts movies, a standard plot line is a big villain has some great technique that others can't defeat, so the heroes have to invent a counter to match it. You also see scenarios where the hero relies on a particular Kung Fu Technique but meets someone who comes up with the perfect counter. For that to work, there have to be some rough edges, where certain techniques stand above the others. But you also need there to be room for players and GMs to respond and create new techniques. This is exactly what we did, allowing for a world of evolving martial talent. But the game wouldn't have developed this way had we not been doing regular, ongoing campaigns.

The rulebook for Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate should be available very soon. After that, people can expect a full adventure module, several free or pay-what-you-want setting supplements and an expansion called Profound Masters of Ogre Gate (to help with higher level play). These will all be developed using the process described above (and a couple of them have been completed).

1 comment:

  1. I love reading the Bedrock posts about the development of the *Wandering Heroes of the Ogre Gate* RPG! As I have been working on _*Fate of Tekumel*_, various playtests and games have created a number of forks off of my imagined Tekumel, but the idea of creating a core setting book and then folders for each fork is a new idea that I rather like!