Hot Circle RPG

edited December 2018 in Directed Promotion
Hi All! I wrote a hack for Burning Wheel called Hot Circle RPG.
Hot Circle is a spark (fan hack) flung from the Burning Wheel by Luke Crane. It attempts to miniaturise and abstract the intricate technology that powers the Burning Wheel to a minimum derivative game.​
​It's a self contained hack that replaces things that involve long lists in Burning Wheel (traits, skills, lifepaths) with freeform descriptors in the style of Over the Edge, Fate, etc.

From this base the framework is extended with compromises (replacing scripted conflicts), conditions (voluntary and as consequences), ability tests (using lifepaths to generate circles, wises, resources, and deeds aka flashbacks), and a modified artha cycle (coupled to advancement and compel interactions).

Hot Circle RPG v0.2 is an alpha playtest document. The framework should be sound but the numbers may be off. It is designed in a zine format and is free to use.

Hot Circle RPG v0.2 - Screen Readable
Hot Circle RPG v0.2 - Zine Printable
Hot Circle RPG v0.2 - Character Sheet

I thought there might be a few BW fans on StoryGames that wanted to have a look. If you read the game and want to give feedback, it is all welcome! Please let me know any sections that are confusing, or what you think of the rules and system interactions.

[Edit: Updated links to version 0.2]

Changelog 0.1 > 0.2:
- Replaced "roll N keep highest" dice pool with BW style pool.
- Obstacle roll replaced with fixed obstacle target.
- Clarified several descriptions and terms.

Comments

  • Interesting! My only comment: I feel like the BW advancement system encourages making tests quite well and that seems to be missing.
  • I replaced BW's [ tally a number of tests of different challenge level, some of which are impossible ] to [ spend a number of persona to reroll tests ] instead.

    I hope that this approach approximates BW's results with a lower complexity or bookkeeping load. Persona will usually be spent on tests important to the player, and they only get spent when the roll has already failed. This approximates a requirement for difficult tests as they fail more often. Hopefully this also ties the artha cycle into advancement a little tighter.
  • edited December 2018
    One downer : I see instincts as a token handed to overcautious players, and the articulation of intent, task, etc. as necessary as it can be for clarity, makes the precautions a bit outdated. Like, from a time when some gamers wouldn't have approached anything story-related. Would you agree that the game will appeal mostly to people who have already played BW and just want it simpler.

    That said, I like the game.
    Do you have advice on how to create Lifepath settings more precisely, or do I just write "craftsman" and that's it ?
    Also, what do i do with assets except upgrade them ? Are they like, positive conditions ?
  • edited December 2018
    I suspect it might mainly appeal to BW initiates. Though I would love it to be a gateway drug to full BW for new players. It's a bit of a love letter to Adam Koebel's DM style in his roll20app BW campaigns. I thought it might run smoothly on a stream or VTT.

    To create lifepaths, something simple like "craftsman" is just what I intended. A single title that leaves some room for interpretation but has an obvious meaning. The ambiguity of exactly what it covers is clarified by assets over time.

    A BW initiate could choose to use the names of the BW lifepaths paying attention to duration, leads, and requirements, and forgetting the rest. This BW poaching approach could be taken for traits too of course.

    Assets establish fictional positioning or narrative input from the player only. This may offer Advantage or Disadvantage to a test and have a mechanical effect, but so can any other environmental thing.
  • edited December 2018
    I came to the same conclusions but wasn't sure. Now I clearly see something I hadn't seen when hearing about BW : it replaces physical sim boundaries or genre conventions by social boundaries. The world is socially tight knit.
    We don't need the goals to anchor the characters to the situation. We can also write the characters into the situation and then make their goals and beliefs discordant !
  • Interesting DeReel, can you expand on social boundaries vs. sim boundaries?
  • The focus of the game is narrative. There is no attempt to measure the world. The characters, their goals and intent are center. But there are no "pulp adventure" no "resources and ecploration" rules,,etc. The story are : rags to riches, politics, guild missions, etc. The focus is social. The world (map) is social. There are few stats but Resources and Circles are two of them. Both are social.
    Am I stretching interpretations ?
  • I think that's an interesting take, but I'm not sure I can agree that BW has no "sim boundaries or genre conventions". There's a LOT to BW
  • edited December 2018
    Am I stretching interpretations ?
    No, that is also my understanding of the core BW technology. I take it that direction somewhat further though, as I feel BW leans sim in some other areas such as weapons, armour, wounds, and so on. Burning Wheel Gold is 600 pages after all not to mention the Codex.
  • edited December 2018
    Oh, I see I applied to all BW something that is true of Hot circle. I guess I've reached my quota of hasty generalisation.
  • I'm not familiar enough with Burning Wheel to really comment intelligently, but I'd like to say that "Hot Circle" is a hilarious name for this project! :)
  • I thought about moseying on by, because as a BW lover I'm not sure why I wouldn't just play BW, but I should expose myself to new things more often! So I'm gonna do that.

    I will commit to a read-through of this and offer comments. I've played and GMed some Burning Wheel, so while I'm no expert, I'm very familiar with the game.

    Are you looking for any particular feedback other than "what's confusing" and "tell me what you think?" If you give me some more direction I'm sure I can help you better!

    I agree with Paul that Hot Circle is a hilarious (and excellent, might I add) name.
  • edited December 2018
    Thanks Hans! More specific questions for you as a BW lover. Sorry if they are too many.

    1. Do you feel confident after reading to make a character for a similar genre to BW?
    2. Do you feel confident to make a character for a very different genre to BW?
    3. Do you feel confident to sketch out a campaign for a similar genre to BW?
    4. Do you feel confident to sketch out a campaign for a very different genre to BW?
    5. How do the rules differences to BW feel in general?
    6. How do you think the compel mechanics will mix with a BW style of play?
    7. How do you think a flashback mechanic (deeds test) will mix with a BW style of play?
    8. Is the fictional difference between a BW style resources test and a Hot Circle style resources test clear in the text? What do you think of that difference?
    9. Are the different stages of ability tests and assets clear in their use?
    10. What things would you miss most playing Hot Circle instead of BW?
  • Two brief comments:

    * I love the idea of a simplified BW.

    * Taking the highest die and comparing number of dice to break the tie could be frustrating if you're rolling d6s (because of the number of ties), which is probably what most people will do.

    For instance, two players rolling 6 dice will tie almost half the time (!).
  • I've run the numbers before but I'm looking at how this plays out in testing. I'm hoping that resolving ties as the last step after all rerolls will reduce the frequency, since rerolls will be used to break upcoming ties in some cases.

    It's tough to come up with a tie-breaker method that makes sense in both an obstacle and ability test. [Rolls => Rerolls => Tie => Highest dice pool wins => Highest Lifepath Rating wins => Reroll to break tie] would reduce the clash frequency again but up the bias towards the dominant party even further.
  • There was this tie breaking rule in BW that was neat, where ties would always go to the defender. It's quite simple to use.

    (Couldn't read the game yet, but I'll try to get to it soon)
  • I'm halfway through! Giving it a close read in my spare moments at work; can't spare evenings at the moment. I hope to have something to you by the end of the week.
  • Thanks for spending your short spare time on it Hans! Appreciated!
  • edited December 2018
    I am interested in your design process. Obviously not feedback, but hey : I just have to know !
    Did you consider making other sorts of contests ? Right now, you've got contests and resources, with few variations inside these categories. But did you consider making magic wielding / fighting / persuading / moving / healing tests different from one another, for instance ? or resources drain wars, or anything... different ?
  • edited December 2018
    My design process is sloooow with lots of abandoned attempts. I first posted on the RPG.net game design forum in 97! Despite that, this is the first game I've finished. Once I had a clear concept it just felt right and flowed out of me. I've started several designs that used freeform descriptors and dicepools, and I hold up Over the Edge as major design inspiration. As soon as I read it back in the days before WaRP it opened my brain wide open to what could be achieved with a freeform framework. When OtE was made open source with WaRP I dreamed of making a sanctioned OtE hack.

    This specific game went through several iterations before I focused on this one. I made a lot of progress with a simpler form that had only traits (no lifepaths) and then specific stats for resources, circles, wises in the style of BW. It also had a lot of stuff about groups being statted the same as characters with freeform traits and their own versions of abilities: loot, sway, and crew. It had heaps of stuff trying to put characters of different trait ratings and groups of different trait ratings on a single power ranking. So a master character could be mechanically equivalent to a smalltime group etc (lots of influence from BiTD in that design). Eventually I had to let that one go, it just didn't sit together in a way I could finish with enthusiasm.

    The breakthrough that lead to this design was putting lifepaths in. By doing this I could change the abilities (circles, resources, wises) to be specific past-tense instances generated from the possibilities suggested by a lifepath. This worked much better with freeform descriptors than individual stats for circles, resources, wises that have absolute meanings ala BW and are resolved in the present-tense. Resources 6 means something specific and absolute in BW, but in Hot Circle resources are just a way to elaborate on an existing lifepath. You got that thing in the past from living that lifepath.

    I considered expanding the abilities into something Insight like, and something Perception/Investigation like. But decided to fold both into wises. So they can check to know something, but they can also check to notice or interpret something correctly about a subject matter they know.

    Deeds / Skills were a very last minute addition. I wanted to have flashbacks, but didn't know how to have it be an integrated mechanic instead of a floating extra. Once the term "deeds test" popped into my head it felt like the answer. First deeds were going to upgrade into reputations, but skills were a much better fit. Taking this approach, wises and skills turn into specialisations or advancements for a lifepath, with mechanical advantage. So now a lifepath can advance generally, by raising the rating, or specifically in a focused area through wises and skills.

    To be honest it's hard to remember all of the contortions this game went through. Now that it all sits together and feels right, the previous ideas just seem like a haze. It's all saved away somewhere though, who knows when it will come in handy!
  • edited December 2018
    Thank you ! This kind of debrief is really gold to me.
    I see you dropped the question of "scale" (individual vs group). Every time my steps brought me back there, I just knew it was out of habit. There is no need for scaling. Most tables always play at the same scale anyway. And if characters rank up, it's very easy to adjust. While there are other obvious things (like power level, or team collaboration vs individual goals) that are not treated and constantly menace derailing the game at so many tables that awkward derailment preventive measures are made into pseudo-golden rules of the hobby. -rant off-

    The lifepaths are a gateway to control the (self) attribution of resources to players. It is clear nod toward a realistic aesthetic, though, and only a possibility. My partner in design wants the same thing, but I don't think it is necessary. I think it is very important that the various characters' sets of traits be compatible and controlled in some way. But I don't think they have to be of the same nature. Some resources can be realistic, but other can be more psychologic, dramatic or even pure narrative roles : a drop of "characters as device" is a nice thing to have, too. Anyway it would be useful to point at online sources for coherent examples of lifepaths for various settings.

    And finally : when you develop a project of this sort, it is cool to have a sort of journal to track your processes and look back at your old self erring or, maybe, find something you abandoned and could use with a change to the letter of the rule or a term you can use for something else.

    I speak like I am this old pro, but really, I am only beginning to follow your tracks. So invigorating sharing experiences when it flows so easily !
  • Exactly, I found the idea of scale and group stats to actively degrade the focus of the game. I asked myself what the game was about. People or groups? It's about people. The whole GM style is about people and what they want. The setting, situation, and factions are just there to torment people better.
  • edited December 2018
    Debrief:

    1. Do you feel confident after reading to make a character for a similar genre to BW?

    Yes.

    2. Do you feel confident to make a character for a very different genre to BW?

    Yes. Neither question 1 nor 2 are issues, because the game basically tells the player to make the setting and drill down to make lifepaths from the setting and then characters from there. With something this loose, it’s not an issue to create any kind of “role-playing game setting” one might want. Whether the play of the characters produces the kind of fiction one might expect from the setting is another thing entirely. It seems to me that no matter the sort of fictional window dressing you give to setting and character, using Hot Circle you’ll get a game about inter- and intra-factional politics and intrigue. This is because of the heavy focus on lifepaths (i.e. character intent and action is tied directly to lifepaths, as opposed to more abstractly connected to lifepaths a la Burning Wheel). As well, the campaign creation rules set us up for a game like this, with the Situation coming out of tensions along a relationship map composed of factions.

    3. Do you feel confident to sketch out a campaign for a similar genre to BW?

    Thoughts are contained in the answer to 2, above.

    4. Do you feel confident to sketch out a campaign for a very different genre to BW?

    Thoughts are contained in the answer to 2, above.

    5. How do the rules differences to BW feel in general?

    A lot of the decisions make sense for the loose, slim take on BW rules here. I do like the solution to connect all tests directly to lifepaths, at least on paper. I suspect it might start to feel unsatisfyingly abstract over the long term, but for a session or two this sounds like fun!

    I think Burning Wheel is well served by not having the basic unit of play be the “scene”, but in contrast I think Hot Circle’s focus on the scene as the unit of play is smart, since there are far fewer things on the character sheet for the player to manipulate and drive play with.

    6. How do you think the compel mechanics will mix with a BW style of play?

    I’ve never played FATE nor any of its derivatives so I can’t comment on the usefulness of Compels in general, but I’ve always liked the idea and I think it fits pretty nicely into your system and the way you’ve modified fate and persona points.

    7. How do you think a flashback mechanic (deeds test) will mix with a BW style of play?

    I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “BW style of play”, as that can encompass a lot of different ideas and procedures, but the flashback mechanic seems like it’ll work well enough. I don’t think it would work well in Burning Wheel, because of how play is not explicitly broken up into discrete scenes, but since Hot Circle does break up play that way, it should work.

    However, the text needs more to make it really run. Who calls for a Deeds test? The player or GM or either? The text doesn’t say. “A deeds test should be used to replace less interesting scenes” is abstract and doesn’t tell us when or why we’d call for a deeds test.

    Additionally, it shouldn’t be called Deeds. It’s nothing like Deeds in Burning Wheel, so the term will confuse people familiar with BW. Just call it a Flashback test or something.

    8. Is the fictional difference between a BW style resources test and a Hot Circle style resources test clear in the text? What do you think of that difference?

    I think so. I’ll say what I think the difference is and you can tell me if I’m clear on it from my reading: A Resources test in Burning Wheel is a means for a character to procure some item or currency or tangible resource. A Resources test in Hot Circle is a means to establish whether a character already has such a thing.

    It seems the intent in Hot Circle is to do away with any sort of play having to do with negotiating over and marshaling resources. “Do you need this thing? Let’s roll and find out if you did all that negotiating at some point in the past.” In Burning Wheel we always have to play this stuff out because in Burning Wheel all of those little actions are important to the fictional circumstances of our character and how it might change their relationship to any number of things (or people). The choice you’ve made in Hot Circle is to relegate this stuff as not super important to what’s going on, other than to determine if the character has some resource that can help them in the current situation. So it seems fine, but I can’t tell for sure unless I play.

    9. Are the different stages of ability tests and assets clear in their use?

    You mean how to get from Temporary Assets to Permanent Assets? Yes, that’s pretty clear, but I find I have to keep going back to the text to remind myself how that works, rather than just having it firmly in mind after reading through. What I don’t understand is what temporary actually means. You say in the text that Temporary Assets are available for one scene, but what if I make a Resources test and get the sword I need for this scene? Is it somehow missing next scene? Is this something we have to account for in play?

    I’m not sure what you mean by the different stages of Ability Tests! The different types of Ability Tests are clear, yes. What I strongly dislike (because it’s not only unclear but also misleading) is the overarching category label “Ability Test”. ATs as they stand in Hot Circle right now allow the player to establish something in the ficiton, in contrast to Obstacle Tests which allow a character to accomplish something in the fiction. How is establishing something related to a character’s ability? A clearer term is needed for this – or just do away with the supercategory altogether, as it doesn’t add much as a concept. I.e., just have Resources Tests, Circles Tests, etc, without having to group those under “Ability Tests” or something like it.

    10. What things would you miss most playing Hot Circle instead of BW?

    To be honest, and this might sound ridiculous for those with a passing familiarity with Burning Wheel, I’d miss the out-of-the-box-ness of Burning Wheel. Hot Circle’s mechanics are relatively simple, but you require all players to do a lot of heavy lifting to come up with genre, setting, and especially lifepaths. One of the greatest things about Burning Wheel is its strongly baked-in setting. Since you’re giving people a procedure and a resolution system but no fictional content, characters will tend toward being milquetoast archetypes.



  • Other thoughts, by page number and/or heading:

    Page 1 – CAMPAIGN CREATION. You use “setting” in a very BW-specific way that most people don’t. I love BW and am very familiar with its language and I was still confused, as I thought you mean “setting” in the traditional way for a while, until I realized what was going on.

    Page 2 – SETTINGS. Examples, please.

    - SITUATION. A relationship map is actually kind of a complex concept. I don’t think you are serving players well by simply saying “create a relationship map” with no further guidance.
    - SITUATION. I quite like the situation-generation rules. Remember though, as you encourage the group to pick the situation it finds most interesting, to not leave out the GM. The GM’s interest is super important to ensure the game happens at all. This is why traditionally GM has so much power, because the game doesn’t exist without their interest. They need some sort of empowerment or tools to allow them an agenda.

    Page 3 – BELIEFS. Examples, please! Also note that the Example Character on page 7 lists three Beliefs, none of which conform to your formula of “I believe [stance] so I must [goal].” I read that formula as a formula, not as a recommendation. I assumed you were distilling down BW Beliefs into something even more concrete and formulaic, and I liked that. So your Example Character confused me.

    Page 5 – TRAITS. Examples needed!

    Page 8 – OBSTACLE TEST. You don’t tell us what we’re even rolling until we’re out of this section. It makes the section more confusing than it needs to be. Also, I’d be interested to hear what the design thought is behind having a task roll opposed by an obstacle roll. It does seem like ties would happen a lot, and it’s more fiddly than the BW system for setting an Ob and rolling with 4+ being success. I just don’t see what benefit making that change offers, but I can see the drawbacks.

    Page 13 – ABILITY TEST. To perform an obstacle test you make a task roll that is contested by the GM’s obstacle roll. This is a little confusing, and is compounded when, under the “Ability Test” heading, you say that an ability test assists an obstacle test. Does it assist the task roll, or the obstacle roll? It’s confusing to say something’s an obstacle test when it requires two separate rolls – there is no “obstacle test”, there’s just a task roll and an obstacle roll and those combine to give us an outcome.

    Page 14 – CIRCLES TEST. “Contact has a specific lifepath”. Wouldn’t all characters, PC or otherwise, have a specific lifepath?

    Page 22 – RUNNING THE GAME. You use “ability check” and “obstacle check” whereas in the rest of the document it’s “[ ] test”.

    My comments may sound harsh, but I don’t intend them to. I was trying to get across my experience, questions, and confusions as a reader. There’s a lot to like here!
  • Hey, I've been thinking about Lifepath. It made me reread "RPG design patterns". I had strayed off the path and your game brought me back on trail : I was missing the Assets category to add to my Traits and Skills. I was trying to work them under the name "anchored traits" because they are so anchored in the setting. Assets is what I was after to distinguish 3 things : a social skill the character can bring anywhere ; circles that are adaptable but not portable ; relations that are for fixed, specific individuals. This can be equated to various actualisation levels the phrasing of which I find in your Assets paragraph and will come in handy for my project. The cannibal brigade is on its way !
  • edited December 2018
    Hans, I sincerely thank you from the bottom of my heart. That is excellent quality feedback.
    Who calls for a Deeds test? The player or GM or either? The text doesn’t say.
    The player requests, and the GM has a strong veto power.
    marshaling resources... In Burning Wheel we always have to play this stuff out because in Burning Wheel all of those little actions are important to the fictional circumstances of our character and how it might change their relationship to any number of things (or people).
    I can see times where the character wants something but it doesn't make sense for them to already have it. In this case the resources test might be to have the alternate resources (like money or favours) to go get it in the present tense. Certainly there will be many less of these scenes compared to BW.
    You say in the text that Temporary Assets are available for one scene, but what if I make a Resources test and get the sword I need for this scene? Is it somehow missing next scene? Is this something we have to account for in play?
    Yes that is the intention in the rules. A more coherent approach might that the temp asset exists in the scene and any that directly lead on. But after any kind of cut, they need to be reintroduced. The temp asset is really just there to make that next attempt more likely to also succeed (+1D to ability test for pre-established asset).
    You use “setting” in a very BW-specific way that most people don’t.
    Settings (Lifepath Settings) and Situation both have very specific meanings. I went with "Lifepath Settings" instead of Settings to try to be more clear, but this has already been confused with straight "Lifepaths" in testing. Perhaps "Game Situation" might be clearer way to express the capital S situation.
    A relationship map is actually kind of a complex concept. I don’t think you are serving players well by simply saying “create a relationship map” with no further guidance.
    I meant the relationship map to be the simple instructions of [ for each faction list one other faction they cooperate with, and one other they compete with ] and the guidance to randomly make those links if none are immediately obvious. I did not have a wider meaning for relationship map. Perhaps I am misusing the term.
    Remember though, as you encourage the group to pick the situation it finds most interesting, to not leave out the GM. The GM’s interest is super important to ensure the game happens at all.
    The term group is meant to include players and GM. You are right though, the GM should have extra power in the campaign creation rules above that of the player. Not sure how to mechanise this as there are no official votes held or similar, but it could at least be phrased to make it clear.
    You don’t tell us what we’re even rolling until we’re out of this section.
    You're right. That's not good.
    under the “Ability Test” heading, you say that an ability test assists an obstacle test. Does it assist the task roll, or the obstacle roll?
    I should probably just remove that sentence. The intention is that the ability test may establish something in the scene that creates positive fictional positioning for the character making the obstacle roll. If it is consequential it may offer advantage to some unspecified future obstacle test. This is better explained in the Linked Tests section, which results in the same mechanical result.

    1. Ability test changes fiction.
    2. Fiction is now advantageous to overcome some obstacle.
    3. Obstacle test now gets advantage for positive fictional positioning.

    There isn't a direct mechanical linkage between the tests unless there is a contextual fictional advantage offered by the former to the latter.
    “Contact has a specific lifepath”
    This is for the situation "I want to make a circles test to see if I know any blacksmiths that could help us." In this case they want a contact with a specific lifepath rather than some average joe. It is more specific and so a more difficult test.
    You use “ability check” and “obstacle check” whereas in the rest of the document it’s “[ ] test”.
    This is so frustrating. I had to catch myself using test and check interchangeably so many times. And I did Find/Replace on "check" several times during writing, but obviously not before the final draft of 0.1. Arrrrrgh!!!

    Once again I want to thank you Hans. You put a lot of work into your response and it has been very helpful.
  • edited December 2018
    You could name consistently the different levels of fiction (hard coded, important static item, neutral malleable scenery) to communicate the fine distinctions you expose in your last post.
    A short and to the point example of prep + play can also be a useful addition for total beginners. (mind mapping factions, picking life path, having RP discussion, positioning and then proper test, winning with a condition, healing, etc.)
  • Glad I could be of use, Casper! I've done some semi-professional editing, so if you're ever at a point where the game system itself is exactly where you want it to be and you want to polish the document, feel free to reach out.

    hcotterson at google mail
  • Updated OP to point to HCRPG version 0.2.

    Hot Circle RPG v0.2 - Screen Readable
    Hot Circle RPG v0.2 - Zine Printable
    Hot Circle RPG v0.2 - Character Sheet

    Changelog 0.1 > 0.2:
    - Replaced "roll N keep highest" dice pool with BW style pool.
    - Obstacle roll replaced with fixed obstacle target.
    - Clarified several descriptions and terms.
  • It's really neat : simple and robust like This is pulp ! Only for a different kind of story.
  • edited December 2018
    Thank you, thank you DeReel. You are a font of encouragement.

    I just spent all night reading about This Is Pulp. I love to read a design born from someone taking a big step back and seeing something clearly. @Rickard has some very insightful ideas. Are they still around the forum?

    I liked the ideas:
    - Address the GM directly with the game text.
    - Describe how to describe how to play the game, not just how to resolve something mechanically.
    - Strictly defined uses of 'and' or 'but' to develop ideas so that they have been touched by more than one player before use.
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