[NAME / 9P] Please critique my game's intelligent races

edited March 2014 in Game Design Help
I'm happy to share that my RPG's rules and setting are finally in a "ready to share with the world" level of readiness. That means I'm ready to get constructive criticism and process it.

May we start by looking at the intelligent races of Narrative Adventures Made Easy?

What stands out for good or bad?

Where do my skills as a wordsmith need work?

Other constructive comments?

Thank you very much for helping me!

UPDATE March 2014: The RPG has been renamed Nine Powers, but the questions still stand...


  • edited March 2014
    Hi again. Life got busy. Was away from this forum for a long time.

    As I just mentioned in another topic (about NAME monsters) I have updated the NAME sample setting to make creatures more distinct.

    For the intelligent races, this included a little revision and major edits to one race. But it mostly involved making a lot of descriptive "flavor text" blend with what I named traits: carefully worded examples of dozens of exceptions to the game mechanics.

    As one example, instead of merely saying that sunlight turns Barrowers to stone, there is now a trait named Defeated by Sunlight that specifies this takes only one turn, requires direct sunlight, and counts as what the game mechanics call "defeating" a creature.

    I added this extra specificity because I want NAME to be kid-friendly. In my experience, although kids enjoy being creative they also enjoy becoming "experts" at learning a certain level of rules detail. I have endeavored to reserve fun creativity for people playing the game while clarifying those other kinds of details for which there is more fun (and fewer arguments) in rules expertise

    Continuing the Barrower examples, I say nothing about narrative and descriptive issues. What noise do Barrowers make as they turn to stone? Do they thrash about, or freeze in place? Do they drop the stuff they hold, or does the hero lose the chance to loot the creature of its weapon as that becomes part of a stone statue? Etc. But I do specify issues that avoid GM/PC arguments and help the PC make successful plans: direct sunlight is required, and the change takes only one turn.

    As before, constructive criticism about the game's content or my writing are appreciated! Thank you.
  • Is it too late to say that "NAME" doesn't work for me as a name?
  • edited December 2013
    Heh. A prior edition had the working title Guilddom Adventures Made Easy.

    Not too late. Do you have any suggestions for a descriptive and clever alternative? I like NAME but am not wedded to it.

    I did try to think of a recursive acronym (such as WINE is not an emulator) but never found one I liked.
  • edited December 2013
    I think NAME's a catchy acronym, but misleading -- from "Narrative Adventures Made Easy", I'd expect a 2-page universal system.

    For a game with this much specific flavor and setting, I'd expect a title more like "Fables of Speleoth" or something. Or you could advertise theme over specific content and go with "The Costs of Heroism" or whatever's most apt. "Fairy Tale Hero" might convey the general topic and single-protagonist approach.

    If you do go the system-based acronym route, I'd specify "diceless" and "two-player" in there. DAFT, Diceless Adventures For Two? Probably a better name for the system than the full game...
  • edited December 2013
    I'd be happy to critique the intelligent races if I knew what they were there for. Does the player play one of these? Or are these basically types of NPCs to encounter?

    If that latter, what's their niche, as opposed to things like monsters? Are they basically people -- possible enemies, possible allies, all with normal "survive and thrive" type motives? Is the protagonist challenged to understand their distinctive weirdness and accept the Other? Or is the distinctiveness mostly about resource -- "I want stuff forged, so I'll enlist a Dweorg!"?

    When I think of fairy tales, I think of such creatures as being rare, and encounters with them being special. Accordingly, I don't expect a protagonist to ever learn stuff like Dweorg Aging and Life Stages. It's certainly possible that it'd come up, and I guess it's good background to inspire GM portrayal, but as a reader, I'd prefer it be separated from stuff of immediate use. By "immediate use" I mean, what does a Dweorg encounter look like? What threats and opportunities will be present? A short list of options would be nice.
  • Thanks for the naming ideas, David Berg. None of those specific ones "click" for me, but I will keep thinking and you suggest some good issues.

    The sample setting has no humans, so it is not "fairy tale land" from the stories.

    How are the intelligent races different from monsters? They can breed. They build civilization.

    (Perhaps I should rename them "the civilized races" since I carefully ensured that there could be at least a few intelligent examples of any of the nine monster types.)

    So, yes, they are the PCs and most of the NPCs in that world.

    I have a spot on my website set aside for Arlinac Town Stories. But I have had too little free time to type up any of the relevant bedtime stories I tell my two sons.

    Hope this helps.
  • Sounds like we're looking at this from different angles. If mine isn't useful to you, feel free to ignore me, but here's what I was focusing on: what these races will contribute to a session of play (and more specifically, to the experience of the player). The fact that they breed and build civilization is relevant to the broader world of the game, but tells me nearly nothing re: what's fun about encountering one. So that's why I was asking about resource, confrontations with the Other, and other sources of fun and player engagement. These are the criteria by which I might say "I think this race will serve its purpose well!" Without knowing such criteria, I can't really critique, all I can say is whether you and I have similar taste. :)
  • Ah. Clearly said. Thank you.

    The short (and insufficient) answer to your questions is that each race has a different magic power. That is currently the main difference in what makes encounters with one race or the other different. The rest is nearly all flavor, which as you say is about taste not working well or not working well.

    I need to ponder this further. I had been considering flavor sufficient. As the introduction to the description of the races says:
    Why do most fantasy settings have multipe intelligent races? In real life we can make many reasonable guesses about a person's job and skills by their appearance. For example, age and clothing generally distinguish college students, lawyers, soldiers, and delivery men. But a fictional world lacks these social clues that provide helpful hints about NPCs. This handicaps the cooperative storytelling. A common replacement is to stereotype about make-believe races so that when a PC meets a new NPC the player then has at least a few informed guesses about what kind of person the PC is meeting, to take the place of the knowledge of appearances learned by someone who grew up in the setting.

    What stereotyping is present? Most members of a fantasy setting's race share similar clothing, foods, building types, and family structures. Each race will favor certain arts. Most have a distinct style as warriors. Each race uses different roles and responsibilities for gender and age. (In many fantasy settings each race has a distinct religion and/or patron diety, but this is not true in the NAME sample setting.)
    Perhaps more is indeed appropriate.
  • David,
    I feel like the races have a much more even coverage as compared to the monsters. Each gets good attention to detail and background.
    I do feel like the need to restrict the characters to being inhabitants of Arlinac Town means that there are large swaths of the racial details that are not relevant to the players (my heart actually sank a little the first time I read characters can only be of this age bracket or this social standing/disposition).
    Is there a mechanical or game-play reason that all the PCs have to be inhabitants of Arlinac Town? Like the write-up of the Dweorgs is pretty awesome, but the rules specifically require that the PCs can only be from one of five age brackets. And I have trouble with how Arlinac Town is supposed to work. I find it hard to imagine a town that is either under or over a mountain and either inside or outside a Therion settlement. That would allow Dweorgs, Kobalts and Ogres? The town either has to be so sprawling as to allow these guys to co-exist or the less desirable races have to be so under-represented as to be non-existant or some other mojo has to be happening. When I was reading the section for the Dweorgs, the idea of Arlinac Town as a starting place for all PCs seemed awesome. But as I read other races, it seemed less and less likely that these so massively divergent races could even coexist. Look at the polar opposite requirements for domiciles between Dweorgs and Kobalts. One wants to live in the ruins of a defeated or departed outsider, while the other wants an orderly and potentially magically reinforced home. Can these two be next door neighbors? How long til carnage breaks out if they are? The core of the idea is awesome, maybe Arlinac just needs to be bigger, maybe its Arlinac Kingdom with little territories where each race can exist, but they all owe some fealty to the King of Arlinac?

    The write-ups are cool, but there does seem to be a distinct lack of a "call to action" for PCs. This is magnified by the fact that the PC Races have almost no reason to trust/interact with each other except that they all live in Arlinac Town.

    Also, there are typos, especially in the Trait write-ups, there are two occasions where the Trait boxes are a copy/paste of the previous Race with no editing. There are other typos too, do you want me to point them out?

    Again, this setting seems major cool. Especially because this is stuff I don't think I could come up with! Keep up the good work!
    Dave M
  • edited December 2013
    Two thoughts:

    1. I wouldn't say that flavor alone is definitely insufficient, but it really depends on what your goals are.

    When I think "fairytales" and look through your cool monsters, my impression of this game has a bit of "rite of passage from childhood safety and simplicity into adult danger and complexity" to it. The fantasy elements can make this sort of thing bigger and more exciting and more tangible. Fighting a Bugaboo somewhat expresses or evokes the child overcoming their fear of the unseen and unknown; stuff like that.

    Accordingly, if your intelligent races' flavor provides similarly appropriate niches, perhaps you don't need more. Are Dweorgs there to teach kids about the need for perseverance and the satisfaction of craftsmanship? Will a Dweorg help the protagonist forge something awesome, but only if the protagonist demonstrates some stick-to-it attitude or appreciation of detail? "We Dweorgs only respect those who respect the craft" -- that kind of flavor might be a very effective addition to a coming of age game.

    Let me clarify that I'm not claiming you should go this direction, just that I think it's an option. If you dig it, then my criteria for "success" would be something like "races who challenge the protagonist to tackle issues in a new or more adult way" (but swap in whatever actually fits your sense of the game's themes).

    2. Different magic powers might be quite sufficient! I'd say it depends on how the powers intersect with the protagonist's endeavors. "I need to make one friend or ally of each race, to have access to the full set of powers, because every power is needed if I am to achieve the Throne of Victory" can work just fine! My impression is that your game is not that kind of game, but maybe I'm wrong.

    Whatever you decide, I'm happy to take a look over your races' powers or thematic niches (or whatever else you deem most crucial) once I have a clear statement of intent to measure them against.
  • What is the perceived value in splitting the Intelligent Races and the monsters? Why do the two things need to be different?
  • Thanks again for all the replies. After some busy weeks dealing with investments, travel, and recovering from travel I finally had time to finish editing the Races page.

    Now each race has an early subsection clearly about interacting with that race. Thanks for that idea, David Berg! I also made sure that each for race I more clearly state how members of that race define "success". The setting is indeed full of rite of passage elements, and a primary one in the races and Powers is contrasting views of what it means to be successful. I also made sure each race had some guidelines for how a PC could normally earn respect from members of that race.

    I never intended a restriction that PCs be part of Arlinac Town. I've removed nearly all references to that location.

    I put in a sentence about why PCs are expected (but not required) to be from the races instead of intelligent monsters.

    I also realized that limiting Dweorgs and Ogres to males served no purpose, and removed that restriction.

    I fixed the trait box typos. Thanks, DinDenver. (Other typos would be great to know about, but please use whisper/e-mail so this thread does not get distracted from its helpful discussion.)

    I added poems for the Dweorgs and Kobalts.

    Whew. I think I'm finally ready for more feedback, having processed the current feedback as much as I can. (If I overlooked something above, it would not be rude to repeat it!)
  • edited January 2014
    Nice! I will give these another read-through.

    Quick question: why isn't the player character human, perhaps even a human kid? It seems more fairytale-intuitive to me to take our familiar human values and experiences and subject them to a strange world with its own values and experiences, rather than starting out as already part of the strangeness.
  • edited March 2014
    oops - posted in wrong thread! how do I delete this?
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