[Anno Daemonum] GM-less story game looking for feedback

Hello there!

The time has come for me to share my current project with you here at the forum. This is my second game (my first in English) and I am very anxious to hear what you think of it at this early stage.

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The pitch
» There is no such thing as demons – demons don’t exist «
This is a GM-less roleplaying game about desperate people who have recently crossed an invisible line into the demonic realm. They only know this from the feeling that they now carry within them: A feeling of demonic presence. It grows in the vicinity of conflict as if the demons thrive there, feeding from the hostile energies at the same time as they fuel those conflicts with violence, sorcery, and corruption.

This game is influenced by Hillfolk (Robin D. Laws), Trollbabe (Ron Edwards), Don’t Rest Your Head (Fred Hicks), Nemesis (Dennis Detwiller & Greg Stolze) and Apocalypse World (D. Vincent Baker).

The play-test documents
The webpage annodaemonum.com is up and running, but doesn't really contain much more than the play-test documents at this point.

The rules text is basically 7 pages, written in a similar way to how you would program computer code (to make it things unmistakably clear and concise). You should be able to start reading the rules from the top, and be sure not to miss anything.

The game is to be played by 2-4 players over several sessions. The alpha version is distributed as a print-and-play game with 120 cards that needs to be printed. You will also need 20 tokens and a bunch of six-sided dice.

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These are the downloads:
* Design notes
* Game rules
* Character sheet
* Game sheets
* Cards

What kind of feedback do I want?
At this point I'm mostly interested in hearing how well the rules text is understood, but perhaps the most valuable feedback would be that from gameplay - so if you would like to try it out and tell me about your experiences I would be ever so grateful!

Apart from commenting here you are welcome to join the Facebook group and Facebook page.

Thanks in advance! Really looking forward to reading your comments!

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Comments

  • edited March 2018
    Hi APM

    I like the overall design of the game and the style is certainly in the range of what I enjoy playing.

    Some initial feedback:
    Got confused why there are designer notes and seperate game rules, is it you can print the rules out for each player?

    In any case, it seemed to me that I need more of an explanation what the game and setting is really about. Maybe some examples can help to get a better idea or some introductory text to establish the setting. The title and the cover image suggest a very specific setting and intention behind the game. Then again, the rules seem rather generic and leave a lot open of what is intended.
    "Ten Candles" would be a very good example: it does a very good job in evoking a specific mood and setting. At the same time, it offers and demonstrates different setting examples for play.

    2-4 players instead of 1-3 additional players seems clearer.

    The X-card is already a quite established technique. Using it with multiple options was a bit confusing to me and may dilute its power & clarity. I would prefer having a designated X-card in the traditional and some additional technique with another name.

    Looking forward to see more from Anno Daemonum!
  • It seems like a considered design, but I lost interest in delving into the procedural code. I get that it's one of these narration-distribution scheme games where the heart of it all is in how and when and what you get to say, but I found that I couldn't be bothered to read it through right now - I started skipping to see if there was any fictional conceit or context for why one would start to crank this story machine in the first place, and didn't really find any in the rules text. I would need some sort of motivation to consider committing to the machine in the first place, and a vague reference to demons isn't quite it.

    I like some games in this general ballpark very much, but today's not the day when I get hooked on this particular one. Too dense, with too little creative promise for me. (The genre is definitely in my wheelhouse, the presentation just has nothing to do with demons and whatnot, and everything to do with nitpicky procedures that I didn't get excited about without having something concrete to apply them to.)

    The above is, obviously, not game design critique - it's about product design. Might or might not be relevant, depending on where you're planning to take this, exactly. I'm sure that it's readable enough for somebody who becomes motivated to try it out in play in some other way (as reading it doesn't really do it, at least for me).
  • APMAPM
    edited March 2018
    Nice to hear from you BeePeeGee!
    I like the overall design of the game and the style is certainly in the range of what I enjoy playing.

    Some initial feedback:
    Got confused why there are designer notes and seperate game rules, is it you can print the rules out for each player?
    Good to hear it caught your eye :) Yes, the rules set is supposed to be printed for each player, and the design notes are primarily for the facilitator (or the person who is play testing at this stage). This is the intention for the final product as well, to have separate booklets with the 7 pages of rules, and then to have a thicker book with design notes, and further discussion about the game, primarily for the facilitator / person who owns the game.
    In any case, it seemed to me that I need more of an explanation what the game and setting is really about. Maybe some examples can help to get a better idea or some introductory text to establish the setting. The title and the cover image suggest a very specific setting and intention behind the game. Then again, the rules seem rather generic and leave a lot open of what is intended.
    "Ten Candles" would be a very good example: it does a very good job in evoking a specific mood and setting. At the same time, it offers and demonstrates different setting examples for play.
    Some of these aspects are touched upon in the design notes - this is perhaps the best "introduction" there is to the game right now. The setting for example is intentionally left vague at this point as I've primarily focused on the mechanics and how they work during play. In these play test versions there is no setting other than the general premise that the player characters are haunted by demons somehow - the details are created during play. This will probably change later on when I feel the mechanics have been fine tuned and working to my satisfaction. Maybe there needs to be a more specific setting in the final product.

    And you're right, maybe the cover suggest something too specific for the game at this point. May I ask what it communicates to you? What expectations that arise?

    I have ten candles on my wishlist and will check it out as soon as I get my hands on it!
    2-4 players instead of 1-3 additional players seems clearer.
    Yes, that is noted!
    The X-card is already a quite established technique. Using it with multiple options was a bit confusing to me and may dilute its power & clarity. I would prefer having a designated X-card in the traditional and some additional technique with another name.

    Yeah, I'm not sure about this. I personally want the x-card to be used. If it isn't used I don't know if it's working properly. I want to take the edge off of using it by being able to use it in several ways. This way there is a scale from o (full approval) - neutral - x (try a different way) - x (cut). Thus using the card more frequently might steer away from the cut-situations alltogether.

    It's like if a blindfolded person was driving a car on an empty parking lot and you as the passenger only had the phrase "stop! turn around!" to guide them. If you instead also got to use "this is a good direction" and "you need to turn" you will be able to guide the driver more efficiently, maybe never having to say "stop! turn around!" at all. I hope this makes sense. I'm going to evaluate how the x-card works after some more play testing.
    Looking forward to see more from Anno Daemonum!
    Thanks!
  • Yeah, I'm not sure about this. I personally want the x-card to be used. If it isn't used I don't know if it's working properly. I want to take the edge off of using it by being able to use it in several ways. This way there is a scale from o (full approval) - neutral - x (try a different way) - x (cut). Thus using the card more frequently might steer away from the cut-situations alltogether.
    There's nothing wrong with approval mechanisms, but I'd be very, very wary of using the X-Card (or something that looks remarkably like the X-Card) to do it. It's muddying the waters of something that is NOT a tool for expressing approval or disapproval. There is no flipside to the X-Card, no degrees of X-Cardness. I believe someone mentioned this in the "scene-cutting mechanisms" thread when someone brought up the X-Card there. It's about the psychological well-being of the players, and only that.
  • APMAPM
    edited March 2018
    Hey Yukamichi! Thanks for your feedback! I'm not sure I follow, and I will try to make you understand why below.
    There's nothing wrong with approval mechanisms, but I'd be very, very wary of using the X-Card (or something that looks remarkably like the X-Card) to do it. It's muddying the waters of something that is NOT a tool for expressing approval or disapproval.
    [...]
    I believe someone mentioned this in the "scene-cutting mechanisms" thread when someone brought up the X-Card there. It's about the psychological well-being of the players, and only that.
    How is psychological well-being not related to approval/disapproval? Is there some kind of important distinction between the two that I'm unaware of? I thought safe-words was supposed to be obviously clear tools to show disapproval. Have I missed something?
    There is no flipside to the X-Card, no degrees of X-Cardness.
    Well as a matter of fact there sometimes are a flipside: the o-side. And from what I've read about that, having the o-side enforces the value of the x-side. http://story-games.com/forums/discussion/18533/using-the-x-card

    I'm interested to hear your thoughts on this!
  • Hi Eero_Tuovinen! I missed your post as I was writing a reply! Thanks for your feedback!
    It seems like a considered design, but I lost interest in delving into the procedural code. I get that it's one of these narration-distribution scheme games where the heart of it all is in how and when and what you get to say, but I found that I couldn't be bothered to read it through right now - I started skipping to see if there was any fictional conceit or context for why one would start to crank this story machine in the first place, and didn't really find any in the rules text. I would need some sort of motivation to consider committing to the machine in the first place, and a vague reference to demons isn't quite it.

    I like some games in this general ballpark very much, but today's not the day when I get hooked on this particular one. Too dense, with too little creative promise for me. (The genre is definitely in my wheelhouse, the presentation just has nothing to do with demons and whatnot, and everything to do with nitpicky procedures that I didn't get excited about without having something concrete to apply them to.)

    The above is, obviously, not game design critique - it's about product design. Might or might not be relevant, depending on where you're planning to take this, exactly. I'm sure that it's readable enough for somebody who becomes motivated to try it out in play in some other way (as reading it doesn't really do it, at least for me).
    I think that in order to market this game at a later stage what you've said is absolutely vital. My design process up to this point has been mechanics to about 99 percent. I didn't put any effort into making an elaborate setting as that would perhaps limit my options mechanically. I had a few things in mind that I would like to happen during play, and have been experimenting with different mechanics, piecing them together to create those certain kinds of interaction.

    The plan as I see it is to create a more elaborate setting when I feel the mechanics have been fine tuned and tested sufficiently. I will try to get back to you then! :)
  • Are you familiar with Sorcerer? I imagine you must be, as you refer to Trollbabe, and your byline about demons is word for word from that game.

    I mention Sorcerer because it manages the bit about being compelling not by having an elaborate setting, but rather by structuring the rules into an evocative whole: the way it names different knobs and switches of the mechanical interface, the story significance it gives to each, and so on - it's all very evocative of the kind of story the game tries to be about, all without having much in the way of pre-made setting.
  • Are you familiar with Sorcerer? I imagine you must be, as you refer to Trollbabe, and your byline about demons is word for word from that game.

    I mention Sorcerer because it manages the bit about being compelling not by having an elaborate setting, but rather by structuring the rules into an evocative whole: the way it names different knobs and switches of the mechanical interface, the story significance it gives to each, and so on - it's all very evocative of the kind of story the game tries to be about, all without having much in the way of pre-made setting.
    Yes, I have Sorcerer, and I admit that the whole "the demons violate the setting" made a big impression on me. I can't remember exactly how it was expressed in that book but I will have a look and see if I made the byline too similar!

    Your feedback is noted! I am sure to take this into account during the continued development! :)
  • @Eero_Tuovinen I could only find one place in the annotations where it says "demons do not exist". I just supposed this was the byline you were referring to. Is that what you meant?
  • I agree with yukamichi on the X-card: it is not intended as approval/disapproval mechanism but as a warning signal for personal well-being. Imagine a supposedly funny scene triggering a childhood trauma. So, it's more like a fire alarm or SOS signal.
    You could i.e. additionally add a traffic light system green-yellow-red for approval.

    I agree with Eero that "I would some motivation for running the machine". Your rules describe the What/How of the game. But *Why* should I play it? What is interesting about the story/setting/fiction of it all that makes it exciting?
    That needs some explaining, and not only in the final version. This is a problem that you don't see when you run the game since you provide the motivation for everyone.
  • @Eero_Tuovinen I could only find one place in the annotations where it says "demons do not exist". I just supposed this was the byline you were referring to. Is that what you meant?
    Could be, I don't remember off-hand where it is in the book. If I had to guess, I'd say that Ron communicates the conceit in the introduction of the book, the first chapter - that's where I remember reading it. Could be that he didn't use those exact words in the original text, though, and it's just one of these bits of "how Forge plays Sorcerer" lore that has tended to accumulate around that game particularly.

    It's certainly the way people always explain the concept in the Internet when explaining Sorcerer: demons do not exist in any kind of setting design sense, they do not follow the natural order, they don't make sense - yet your character has one anyway.

    If you google it a bit, you'll find that it's a pithy tagline that's often associated with Sorcerer. Probably not a big deal, but I'll guarantee that Sorcerer's the first thing that comes to mind to anybody who's big into that game when you open with this specific line.
  • I haven't had time to look through the rules properly yet, but I will say that the graphic design looks excellent. I would suggest maybe creating a version of the rules with character-creation at the start, as that's generally the first thing people need to read to understand the rest.

    (Also, and this might sound nit-picky, but some potential players will judge you on it, the line should be "There are no such things as demons".)
  • I haven't had time to look through the rules properly yet, but I will say that the graphic design looks excellent. I would suggest maybe creating a version of the rules with character-creation at the start, as that's generally the first thing people need to read to understand the rest.

    (Also, and this might sound nit-picky, but some potential players will judge you on it, the line should be "There are no such things as demons".)
    Thanks 13clocks!

    Yes, I have also thought about moving the character creation. The choice to keep it at the back was based on the fact that you only use it in a few game sessions. But it would make more sense when reading the game for the first time to have it first :)

    I see I misspelled the line now that you mention it! English is not my first language so I will definitely have someone look over it later. But thanks for pointing it out!

  • If you google it a bit, you'll find that it's a pithy tagline that's often associated with Sorcerer. Probably not a big deal, but I'll guarantee that Sorcerer's the first thing that comes to mind to anybody who's big into that game when you open with this specific line.
    I see what you're saying. I'll see what other feedback I get regarding this!
  • I agree with yukamichi on the X-card: it is not intended as approval/disapproval mechanism but as a warning signal for personal well-being. Imagine a supposedly funny scene triggering a childhood trauma. So, it's more like a fire alarm or SOS signal.
    You could i.e. additionally add a traffic light system green-yellow-red for approval.
    I still need an explanation of how disapproval is disconnected from the psychological well-being in order to understand this point of view. But I feel as if this perhaps belongs in a separate thread. How about continuing this discussion here http://www.story-games.com/forums/discussion/21515/safety-in-games-tools-for-same-and-on-the-cutting-of-scenes#latest ?

    I agree with Eero that "I would some motivation for running the machine". Your rules describe the What/How of the game. But *Why* should I play it? What is interesting about the story/setting/fiction of it all that makes it exciting?
    That needs some explaining, and not only in the final version. This is a problem that you don't see when you run the game since you provide the motivation for everyone.
    This is an interesting statement! I agree I do need to formulate the *why* more clearly (or at all). Have you read the design notes? Does those say something in the line of what you're missing or is it something completely different? Can you come to think of any particular game that does this well without having a fixed setting? I think I need some good examples to spark my imagination.
  • The afore-mentioned Sorcerer does not have a fixed setting. It sells me on the game by describing a compelling situation and promising that I get to play a story about that situation.

    (That situation: a sorcerer has the ability to summon demons; the demons are dangerous, inhuman creatures the sorcerer has to treat with via roleplaying; the sorcerer has dramatic human needs he's attempting to solve with demonic aid.)

    Tales of Entropy is another generic game, a recent one, and it is also an example of one that has troubles with this same issue of creative thesis: you cannot really tell up-front from the game's website or a superficial reading what it's "about". When you delve deeper into the game you'll figure out that it's a slim, modern take on Dust Devils, pretty much, and therefore quite exciting if you're into blood opera story games - but figuring that out basically requires either playing the game (not going to happen if you're not excited about it) or reading the book (not going to happen unless you buy it, and why would you). Clearly a problem.

    In this case that issue exemplified by Entropy is particularly stark. I mean, I've been known to read a few game texts over the years, and perhaps I didn't have my most energetic day ever on Saturday, but I still am not really interested in taking a second look - I'm in fact much more interested in helping you figure out why I lost interest than I am in opening that pdf a second time [grin]. Does the game have a, you know, a theme or something? What is it about, besides vaguely defined demons that don't seem to have a colorful mythology or anything like that to get intrigued over? Is it just a rules-set for deciding who gets to talk when, or does it address some human (gamer?) issue of general interest?
  • edited March 2018
    Chiming in after @Eero_Tuovinen to suggest a different angle of debate.

    @APM I suppose you've played the game a bit before writing it down, haven't you? What happened when you played, in terms of fictional content? What sort of stories emerged? What had you most excited about those? Specifically, what were the demons like, and why were they interesting?
  • edited March 2018
    @APM : I've read the designer notes. The "why" is briefly hinted, yet I believe it needs to be in the beginning and cover more ground. As mentioned before, *Ten Candles* does this very well. It defines a setting framework in an evocative while leaving the specific setting very open. If you want a very generic example, *Primetime Adventures* is a very well written game guide.

    Disapproval vs well-being: a very simple analogy:
    "I don't want lasagne" vs "I'm allergic to peanuts".
    The first sentence is a choice/preference, in the second case you choke & die.
    Both are not necessarily disconnected, well-being (X-card) is just a very strong & urgent *need*.
  • The afore-mentioned Sorcerer does not have a fixed setting. It sells me on the game by describing a compelling situation and promising that I get to play a story about that situation.
    Yes, that example is definately already on the list! :)

    (That situation: a sorcerer has the ability to summon demons; the demons are dangerous, inhuman creatures the sorcerer has to treat with via roleplaying; the sorcerer has dramatic human needs he's attempting to solve with demonic aid.)
    Thanks for this clarification!

    In this case that issue exemplified by Entropy is particularly stark. I mean, I've been known to read a few game texts over the years, and perhaps I didn't have my most energetic day ever on Saturday, but I still am not really interested in taking a second look - I'm in fact much more interested in helping you figure out why I lost interest than I am in opening that pdf a second time [grin]. Does the game have a, you know, a theme or something? What is it about, besides vaguely defined demons that don't seem to have a colorful mythology or anything like that to get intrigued over? Is it just a rules-set for deciding who gets to talk when, or does it address some human (gamer?) issue of general interest?
    These questions are a great help! Working with the *why* is certainly next on my to-do list, thanks for stressing its importance! You are free to stop helping whenever you feel like it :)
  • Chiming in after @Eero_Tuovinen to suggest a different angle of debate.

    @APM I suppose you've played the game a bit before writing it down, haven't you? What happened when you played, in terms of fictional content? What sort of stories emerged? What had you most excited about those? Specifically, what were the demons like, and why were they interesting?
    Yes, you are right. That is a good place to start! I'm going to get to work on the *why* question and try to start by looking over these questions of yours! Thanks a lot!
  • @APM : I've read the designer notes. The "why" is briefly hinted, yet I believe it needs to be in the beginning and cover more ground. As mentioned before, *Ten Candles* does this very well. It defines a setting framework in an evocative while leaving the specific setting very open. If you want a very generic example, *Primetime Adventures* is a very well written game guide.
    Thanks for the examples! Will have a look when I get the chance.

    I think I get what kind of things are missing. I think I need to create something that
    a) catches the eye and intrigues the reader to continue reading.
    b) gives a promise of what the player will experience during play.
    c) shows what's interesting about the demons and how they make a difference in the setting.
    d) maybe tries to flesh out an intriguing example for a setting and tell a typical story that this game would produce.

    Disapproval vs well-being: a very simple analogy:
    "I don't want lasagne" vs "I'm allergic to peanuts".
    The first sentence is a choice/preference, in the second case you choke & die.
    Both are not necessarily disconnected, well-being (X-card) is just a very strong & urgent *need*.
    Yeah, that analogy might work, but as you say they are not disconnected. There is always a spectrum: I'm allergic to apples and some nuts but not to the extent that I choke when I eat them. It's till an unpleasant experience most of the times - so I often choose not to eat those kinds of food. Now, is that allergia to an extent that would allow me to use the x-card or is it more of "it itches like hell in my throat - so I don't want to eat it"? I think this is the same for play experiences.

    There are degrees of how bad you feel when you feel discomfort - and it's only you that can decide when your border has been crossed. On the contrary to allergia - no one dies from psychological discomfort so to me it's all a matter of preferences, just that some people's preferences are really strong.

    Anyway, I will think about this during the future development. I'm still not convinced that I'm doing something objectively wrong. I think my version could work better for some, and then worse for others.
  • If your game has interesting things to say about demons and other fictional subject matter (or real-life stuff), definitely give us a taste of that!

    If the appeal is more about the system, though, that's fine too -- you just need to tell us what we'll get out of the system that we aren't getting from our other game systems.

    For example, I would definitely read through a game draft which promised, "These rules will have you gleefully riffing off each other's creative contributions like never before!" or some such.

    A case in point is Annalise. I originally heard it pitched as "bunch of people possibly being stalked by a vampire" and passed. But once the game had made some fans, the vampire bit wasn't what they talked about -- the weird "claims" mechanic was usually the standout. And the sort of creative/competitive social dynamic that mechanic engenders is totally my kind of thing! I just needed to hear the right words to illustrate its appeal.
  • If your game has interesting things to say about demons and other fictional subject matter (or real-life stuff), definitely give us a taste of that!

    If the appeal is more about the system, though, that's fine too -- you just need to tell us what we'll get out of the system that we aren't getting from our other game systems.

    For example, I would definitely read through a game draft which promised, "These rules will have you gleefully riffing off each other's creative contributions like never before!" or some such.

    A case in point is Annalise. I originally heard it pitched as "bunch of people possibly being stalked by a vampire" and passed. But once the game had made some fans, the vampire bit wasn't what they talked about -- the weird "claims" mechanic was usually the standout. And the sort of creative/competitive social dynamic that mechanic engenders is totally my kind of thing! I just needed to hear the right words to illustrate its appeal.
    Thanks @David_Berg ! All of this is very helpful. You are right that I haven't pitched what's great about the system either. This I could definately have stated from the beginning - to me that's easier than the setting as the setting isn't fixed. I'll give it a ponder and let you know when I'm done!
  • edited March 2018
    The pitch is so incredibly important because it helps setting the state of readers' minds for how they interpret the rest of the text. I tried, rather clumsily, to do that to my type of games that are quite different:
    The fun in playing this game lies in seeing a scenario grow in front of us while contributing to it...
    I remember when I did that, trying to come up with answers about someone I didn’t know, and I got that tingling sensation in my gut as if I was riding a roller coaster. The same feeling I got the nights when I lay back in a eld, watched the night sky and wondered how vast the universe really was.

    In a little bit over an hour of play, Imagine is going to create a shared feeling in the group while we are following its structures.
    Look at how boardgames does it in a very little space: give an overhaul of the setting; tell the reader how to win.

    You have earlier already formed theories about player motivations and personas. Use them to ask yourself questions about what this game is about. Would someone that prefers autonomy like this? What would »the friend« benefit from this game? Who would benefit the most from playing this game, or did you make this game with a particular player type in mind? Write the pitch from that persona's perspective.
  • APMAPM
    edited March 2018
    The pitch is so incredibly important because it helps setting the state of readers' minds for how they interpret the rest of the text. I tried, rather clumsily, to do that to my type of games that are quite different:
    [...]

    Look at how boardgames does it in a very little space: give an overhaul of the setting; tell the reader how to win.

    You have earlier already formed theories about player motivations and personas. Use them to ask yourself questions about what this game is about. Would someone that prefers autonomy like this? What would »the friend« benefit from this game? Who would benefit the most from playing this game, or did you make this game with a particular player type in mind? Write the pitch from that persona's perspective.
    Great advice @Rickard ! I will get right to it!
  • Right! So I've given this whole setting-question some thought and I wrote a summary of the things that I find most interesting. I know it's quite a lot of text for a pitch but maybe you could point me in the direction of what bits of it you found most intriguing? That would be a tremendous help!

    Pitch material

    The basic recipe of this game is:
    + desperate & unstable people
    + dangerous & unreliable tools
    + spontaneous & emotional choices
    = interesting characters to drive the narrative

    The player characters are real people in an unreal situation.

    The big questions are:
    * What do they desire/want? Why do they want that?
    * How far are they willing to go to get it? What are they prepared to do to other people? What are they not prepared to do?

    The demons are a shortcut to getting what the characters want. But it's unpredictable and may lead the characters in two ways:
    * Seclusion - Accepting and enforcing the belief that that the demons exist. Thus learning to control their power and grow more powerful and ruthless
    * Society - Fighting the irrationality of the demons' existence by tearing down the illusion and exposing their moral complications.

    You may look at the above as a form of alignment - society vs seclusion, good vs bad or light side vs dark side. It's about finding out if your character succumbs to the temptations of power. If so: With great power comes great responsibiltiy - how do they handle that?

    Note however,that this isn't a game about fighting the horror. There's no lurking fear or demonic fiends that that pose an external threat. Instead, the player characters conjure these demons involutarily and they have to deal with it one way or the other. The threat comes from their own choices. Also, sorcery in Anno Daemonum is not ritual magic - it's instantaneous, impulsive, subtle, and constantly within reach. N.b. the demons are not characters - there's no talking or interacting with them.

    All characters have a trigger event that pushed them across the border into the demonic realm. In doing so the demons now may pass into the realm of the living when their targets (the player characters) are desperate and weak. The characters have all been marked when they entered the demonic realm and the demons have their eyes on them from then on, stalking and watching from beyond - breaking through into the realm of the living whenever conflict occurs.

    The fiction is based on the mechanics and thus it's a mechanics-first kind of game. The mechanics forces a certain type of narrative with reincorporation and a tight web of people & places. It's a close-up personal narrative, with focus on personality and morals. There is no room for world domination or conflicts between organizations in these narratives. This is personal. If you want something done you have to do it yourself. The demons are not your henchmen. Furthermore, the characters are above the law, above religion. Once the characters have passed the border into the demonic realm, they are disconnected from society - no one can help them except for themselves (or perhaps each other?).

    What might happen during play:
    * Power struggles between characters
    * Characters showing vulnerability
    * Characters doubting what' real and what's not
    * Characters hurting each other to get what they want
    * Characters loosing control, doing things they didn't intend to
    * Characters aiding and interfering with each other
    * Ambiguous characters neither good nor bad - acting out of their own logic
  • I like that a lot!
  • Cool! I have a bunch of questions, but maybe answering this will answer them all:

    How does the game end?
  • Cool! I have a bunch of questions, but maybe answering this will answer them all:

    How does the game end?
    Well, the boring answer is "when the players feel as if the story has been explored to their content". There is however two ways to retire your character - either due to incapacitation (i.e. harm) or when they have become one with the demons.

    Becoming one with the demons means that you have so many hard experiences that you have full control over the demons - but sadly this is also when you stop being able to distinguish your own free will from those of the demons. So the player loses control of their character and the PC becomes an NPC from that moment on.

    Does that answer more questions than it creates new ones? :)

  • The pitch now seems a lot clearer. It feels to me a bit like an "Unknown Armies story game" (which is a _really_ good thing in my book).
    I'd need to dive deeper to see what it really is.
  • edited March 2018
    Okay, so, without prescribing when the players' exploration must be complete, can you offer a guess about when it probably will be complete? Like, what does that moment look like? What has been addressed, what has been resolved?
  • Okay, so, without prescribing when the players' exploration must be complete, can you offer a guess about when it probably will be complete? Like, what does that moment look like? What has been addressed, what has been resolved?
    Hmm.. so the characters each have a main *desire* and then separate *wants* towards other characters. I have been thinking about what happens when the desire is resolved. A character who wants love - what happens when they finally get it?

    So I would guess that's a good point to end a story: when it's clear whether the characters will get that which they desire or not, when it's clear what they've paid to get it or how far they were willing to go.

    That is probably the end state if the characters stay alive and sane. :)
  • The pitch now seems a lot clearer. It feels to me a bit like an "Unknown Armies story game" (which is a _really_ good thing in my book).
    I'd need to dive deeper to see what it really is.
    Haven't really read unknown armies. Perhaps I should, to give me some more inspiration :)
  • Would you say that play which isn't at all related to pursuing a character's Desire is equally valid? Or would you say that's a waste of time, missing the game's point?

    If play is supposed to be about pursuing Desires, are there any rules or principles which guide or support the group in doing this?
  • Would you say that play which isn't at all related to pursuing a character's Desire is equally valid? Or would you say that's a waste of time, missing the game's point?
    Thanks for helping me with all these follow-up questions!

    Let's see... I created the desires and wants as a help for players to more easily being able to identify what their character might do next. Thus narrowing down the scope of the story that is created.

    I would say that generally, scenes should either adress a want or the desire - but sometimes scenes aim just to establish what a relationship is like (how two characters interact with one another). But in the long run I think not paying attention to the desires and wants might end up in non-consistent play that "misses the point".

    Yeah, now that I think of it. If a character that totally ignores the desire, only to embrace the demons and cause havoc - that won't be the kind of gameplay I want for the game.
    If play is supposed to be about pursuing Desires, are there any rules or principles which guide or support the group in doing this?
    I don't think there are any mechanics/principles that enforce players to pursuing their desires in this version. The desire as of now is primarily a help for creating a character that is headed in a certain way. For me it feels natural to continue in that trajectory exploring what it's all about, but I guess if players want to do a bunch of other stuff, there's nothing stopping them. But then again - there are no incentives for them to do that either.

    I don't really know what kind of principles would help here. I can imagine a method similar to FATE Core where you would get some kind of benefit from every scene where you pursue your desire, but that's not a way I'm really prepared to go. Do you have any examples?

    My original thought was that just by having the players choose a desire and writing wants towards other characters, would maybe nudge them into playing in a way that I intended, without any further mechanics/principles.
  • Hello,
    About the procedures :
    - I like the sobriety of it.
    - Sex stands out.
    - the algorithm presentation is easier to understand : why not put it before the text ?
    - the negotiation for gained history is short but, could we make it after the scene ends ?
    About the symbols :
    - they are great
    - the two sides of a card made me think of Misspent Youth selling out
    - they made me want more
  • edited March 2018
    This game is so close to being Sorcerer already that I feel awkward recommending techniques from that game. Just for the sake of comparison, though, here's how Sorcerer does it:
    • When you create your character, you also create an urgent situation they have to deal with.
    • In play, as you explore them and their choices and the consequences of those choices, you are doing so in the context of them dealing with that urgent situation.
    • The GM plays various characters that make this endeavor (dealing with the urgent situation) non-trivial, and often a conflict of interests.
    • Once that urgent situation and all its troubles are resolved, that's a good place to end this character's story and the game.
    In practice, this produces neither a quick one-shot nor an unending campaign. We have a handy framework for upping the stakes and testing how far the character will go and getting to a climax and denouement. This informs the focus the players and GM bring to play.

    Do you want some equivalent structure for Anno Daemonum? Or would you prefer to let the play length emerge and focus coalesce (or fail to) via whatever the players are motivated to do with the fictional situations?
  • APMAPM
    edited March 2018
    This game is so close to being Sorcerer already that I feel awkward recommending techniques from that game.
    I feel that Sorcerer and Anno Daemonum is aiming for a similar premise/setting. I mean the situation that the characters are in some kind of crisis at the start of the game is more of a standard in games these days, so there's nothing unique about that. This and the demons are two things that sorcerer and AD share.

    The main difference I would say, is that the demons in AD are not characters. They are more of an otherworldly force that you can't interact with, speak to, or control. Yet you have some kind of power over it. So I would say that even though the setting is similar, the games have very different execution.
    here's how Sorcerer does it:
    • When you create your character, you also create an urgent situation they have to deal with.
    • In play, as you explore them and their choices and the consequences of those choices, you are doing so in the context of them dealing with that urgent situation.
    • The GM plays various characters that make this endeavor (dealing with the urgent situation) non-trivial, and often a conflict of interests.
    • Once that urgent situation and all its troubles are resolved, that's a good place to end this character's story and the game.
    In practice, this produces neither a quick one-shot nor an unending campaign. We have a handy framework for upping the stakes and testing how far the character will go and getting to a climax and denouement. This informs the focus the players and GM bring to play.

    Do you want some equivalent structure for Anno Daemonum? Or would you prefer to let the play length emerge and focus coalesce (or fail to) via whatever the players are motivated to do with the fictional situations?
    I guess that I'm trying to create a similar structure. Or at least that's what I think that I'm getting with the system as of now. To be honest I took a little experimental approach to creating this game as I began with mechanics that I liked to use during play. I didn't start with pointing out what I wanted.

    At this alpha-stage I'm more curious about what things the structures create during play than what I intend with them. As you've seen I have some kind of general idea what I want but if gameplay gives me something else I am prepared to reassess my goals. Sort of "okay - I wanted to create an apetizer with sugar but ended up with a dessert, so I guess a dessert is what I'm creating then". :)

    So the answer to your question is "yes, I think I want a similar structure as the one you listed - but I'm not sure yet".
  • APMAPM
    edited March 2018
    Thanks for sharing DeReel! I was very intrigued by your feedback and would like to ask you to elaborate a bit!

    - Sex stands out.
    In what way? Is it in a sense that it is seen as a big part of the game, or is it more like it being incoherent with the rest of the rules?

    - the algorithm presentation is easier to understand : why not put it before the text ?
    What is this algorithm presentation you're referring to? The whole component-part after the rules pages? Where I show the sheets and cards?

    - the negotiation for gained history is short but, could we make it after the scene ends ?
    I suppose you're referring to the history-gain after a conflict? It is actually a good idea to bring that out to the end-of-scene procedure as well.

    - the two sides of a card made me think of Misspent Youth selling out
    I haven't read misspent youth - what do you mean by selling out?

    - they made me want more
    Is this in the sense that they made you more curious about the rest of the game or in the sense that you think there are too few of them?

    Sorry for all these follow-up questions, I just really want to understand your feedback! Thanks again!
  • edited March 2018
    Sorry for the gibberish. I don't filter feedback on purpose, but I may have to tone the sibylline style down.
    When I say "sex stands out in the algorithm presentation", I mean many games have special rules for combat, others for intoxication or gemmology. Yours has a special rule for sex. So that's that and nothing more.
    In Misspent Youth, the Yos' stats are two-sides like Brave/Reckless, Caring/Soft, etc. What happens when you want your character to get through, you take the heat and it firebrands you. You sell out and your naive Yo becomes jaded, taking the empty-shell dark side of their stat.
    When I read the 2 sided cards, I wanted more because I liked the ones I saw. You apetizer analogy fits right there. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, more like : if a group of players wants to keep with the game long term, they may want new cards published, each set bringing new dimensions to the game, zooming on certain tones or setting aspects.
  • edited March 2018
    At this alpha-stage I'm more curious about what things the structures create during play than what I intend with them.
    Cool. That makes total sense to me.

    That also helps explain why you might have trouble pitching it right now. :)

    For future pitching, I'd recommend that you be sure to mention something along the lines of:
    - The general point of play is to explore the stories of these characters in these situations.
    - Each character has a Desire which should initially drive their actions, and well as Wants which should drive their interactions with the other characters.

    I think the style of character relationships here -- not a team, but not totally separate -- is a highly significant feature. I'm curious what the procedure/guidance is for creating Wants. Are you hoping more for a team, or more for everyone trying to kill each other, or are both equally valid along with anything in between?
  • APMAPM
    edited March 2018
    Thanks for clarifying @DeReel ! Also the thing about different card sets is a very clever thought that I intend to delve deeper into at some point!
  • Cool. That makes total sense to me.

    That also helps explain why you might have trouble pitching it right now. :)
    Yes, I also realized this :)

    For future pitching, I'd recommend that you be sure to mention something along the lines of:
    - The general point of play is to explore the stories of these characters in these situations.
    - Each character has a Desire which should initially drive their actions, and well as Wants which should drive their interactions with the other characters.

    I think the style of character relationships here -- not a team, but not totally separate -- is a highly significant feature.
    Thanks for the advice! I've also came to find some other principles that are important for the game and might serve well as part of the pitch.

    It was when I listened to a podcast episode with D. Vincent Baker where he was talking about the principles of Apocalypse World, when I started thinking what similar statements I have for this game. What I came up with was this:

    * Your goal is to influence the fictional world that your characters live in - to change their situation by taking fate into their own hands. And the tools they've been given (as a blessing and a curse) to do this is the demonic force.

    * Together you and your fellow players are to create a believable/intriguing story that revolves around your characters. Make the characters' lives interesting.

    * When you are the "narrator" you're in a way a director that directs the scene, controls the camera angles and home in on the details of your choosing. You don't have complete control over the actors but at a larger scale you're the one in charge.

    *The basic idea of the resolution mechanics is this: With experience one grows more proficient but at the same time more inhuman. The tradeoff you have to tackle is: Do you want to be an independent and powerful inhuman being, or a weak but humane person that is highly dependent on the relationships with others. You're kind of playing to find out what consequences those choices lead to.
    I'm curious what the procedure/guidance is for creating Wants. Are you hoping more for a team, or more for everyone trying to kill each other, or are both equally valid along with anything in between?
    The wants have no guidelines as of now. For me it comes naturally that when I start thinking about a want to another person I also get a feeling for what that relationship is about. The wants can also be changed at any time. As I see it now - i prefer internal conflict. I myself try to create realtionships to the other PCs first, and not create new NPCs unless there is no other alternative. But I guess it would be equally valid if the characters never would cross paths, having completely different stories. It would just be a different kind of gameplay.


  • I just wanted to let you know that there is an actual play episode from a play-test session I had with the Swedish podcast Vi spelar rollspel (translation: we're roleplaying). We begin talking in Swedish but switch to english when we start playing. You can find it here: http://www.vispelarrollspel.se/one-shots/spelskaparna-anno-daemonum/

    It didn't really show much of the vulnerability-mechanics, and it was a bit rushed at the end. But there were some nice scenes and you get to hear how the overall structure and mechanics work.

    If you listen to it, please let me know what you think!
  • The basic idea of the resolution mechanics is this: With experience one grows more proficient but at the same time more inhuman. The tradeoff you have to tackle is: Do you want to be an independent and powerful inhuman being, or a weak but humane person that is highly dependent on the relationships with others. You're kind of playing to find out what consequences those choices lead to.
    That sounds intriguing! I'd be curious to hear how the mechanics force me to make such tradeoffs.

    I'm also wondering how much I might get to have fun exploring my character's inhumanity. Many games decide that once you've crossed into inhuman territory you're no longer a protagonist, but I think it could be fun to play "an independent and powerful inhuman being"...
  • Indeed; that would separate the game from others with a similar premise (e.g. Sorcerer).
  • Giving feedback on AP and the rules as written :
    The written rules are well written. I would like a line drawn between paragraphs. You notice yourself that it's awkward to put character creation at the end : I'd favour beginner players over experienced ones.

    Dice and cards : do you need both ?

    The experience system seems good : easy to track and useful for navigation.

    Conflict has precedence over scene. Sometimes between scenes, players are looking for their antagonist for the next scene, there are some in character sound bites, they browse various locations and possibilities before finding the scene proper. They are building their conflict, and the scene is secondary. This is sometimes confusing but I like it. It means drama over storyboarding. I never played Drama system, but I think the time between scenes already looks like this.

    I have a problem however with all systems that queue (mechanic) conflicts one after the other. This is noticeable in Luke's car : this is a turning point where multiple (dramatic) conflicts pile up, altering the nature of the conflict. The structure is flexible if the player wants to change the outcome, but doesn't handle conflicts "crossing over".

  • That sounds intriguing! I'd be curious to hear how the mechanics force me to make such tradeoffs.
    Thanks for keeping up the feedback!

    Right now the choice you make is mostly if you're prepared to go into conflict to get what you want or not. If you go into conflict, you might loose humanity (as you gain hard experiences) but you might also keep your humanity (when you gain trauma).

    So the choice you make is: 1) will i risk to get into conflict?, and 2) how far am I prepared to push myself to win the conflict? If you push yourself hard you will probably loose humanity as you gain hard experiences (it also depends on the experience card you use to win the conflict) or if you don't want to push for it, you will probably keep your humanity but gain trauma instead.

    I might make some changes to this later on, in order to make it more of a choice and less of a result of a dice roll. But, I'm not there yet :)


    I'm also wondering how much I might get to have fun exploring my character's inhumanity. Many games decide that once you've crossed into inhuman territory you're no longer a protagonist, but I think it could be fun to play "an independent and powerful inhuman being"...
    You basically start heading into inhuman territory from the start. When you gain your first hard experience you've also lost the first bit of your humanity. So I would definately say there is lots of gameplay to explore the inhuman side of the characters. It is first when you've done practically every horrible thing in the deck that you turn into a demon and loose control over them. Up until that point they will remain protagonists.
  • Giving feedback on AP and the rules as written :
    The written rules are well written. I would like a line drawn between paragraphs. You notice yourself that it's awkward to put character creation at the end : I'd favour beginner players over experienced ones.

    Thanks a lot! The details are noted!

    Dice and cards : do you need both ?

    I really want to get rid of the dice, but have not yet found out a way to get a similar kind of play without it. I think I'll be able to figure it out in the end, but I need some time to think it over!


    The experience system seems good : easy to track and useful for navigation.

    What do you mean with navigation here?


    Conflict has precedence over scene. Sometimes between scenes, players are looking for their antagonist for the next scene, there are some in character sound bites, they browse various locations and possibilities before finding the scene proper. They are building their conflict, and the scene is secondary. This is sometimes confusing but I like it. It means drama over storyboarding. I never played Drama system, but I think the time between scenes already looks like this.

    This is an interesting observation, I haven't thought about it like this before. I guess there are different things you look at for a scene depending what you plan to do during it. If you want a downtime scene to recover from conditions, you look for a character you have lots of history with, but if you want to get something from another character you set it up for conflict i guess! I hope there will be those moments when you set something up for one but end up doing the other due to the reactions of the other characters present :)


    I have a problem however with all systems that queue (mechanic) conflicts one after the other. This is noticeable in Luke's car : this is a turning point where multiple (dramatic) conflicts pile up, altering the nature of the conflict. The structure is flexible if the player wants to change the outcome, but doesn't handle conflicts "crossing over".

    This is also interesting. I will have to listen to that part again to try noticing what you mean. Would you care to elaborate what you mean with conflicts "crossing over"? Is it when several characters wants something in the same scene but only the narrator (player who'se turn it is) can call conflict? Or is it something else?

    Thanks again, I really appreciate your input!
  • edited March 2018
    Okay, cool, I see how going hard after what I want costs me humanity, and how pushing less hard doesn't.

    What does that have to do with independence vs dependence on others?

    Let's say I want to pursue a path of humanity. Does that mean I can/will/should be petitioning others for help in achieving my goals? If so, what determines whether they help or don't?
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