UFO Press June Update

The last month was pretty great for UFO Press:

Legacy 2e

I launched the playtest for the second edition of Legacy! We’ve got some feedback already and it’s shaping up very nicely. If you’d like to grab the files and take a look, head here.

Patreon!

I launched the UFO Press patreon, dedicated to funding monthly microgames with a side order of early access to game drafts. I’ve just posted the game for June – Ghost Writer. It’s a two-player game about a digitally resurrected author and the publishing house forcing them to complete their final work.

Expo!

We went to the UK Games Expo! It was my first time at any event of that size – apparently, it’s in the top 3 biggest board games conventions in the world, bigger than Origins. It was an absolute blast manning the stall, although pretty tiring. Huge thanks to my stall neighbours from Crooked Dice game design studio – they were great company, and their minis look very cool.

As well as selling a healthy chunk of games to customers, a number of UFO Press products are on their way to Leisure Games in London and Stratagemma in Florence. If you’re in their area and want to check out our games in person, go take a look!

Finally, I had loads of interesting conversations with publishers, distributors, designers and other industry figures. Watch this space for developments to come…

Upcoming Projects

  • Work’s ongoing for Legacy 2e: we’re targeting a kickstarter in late Summer/early Autumn, though we’ll see what’s right for the game. We want to get this right.
  • Ghost Ship is on the backburner at the moment – playtesting showed the game was kinda split between the memories-and-AI side and the freebooting-Firefly side, so I’m trying to see if I can reconcile them or focus on the right one.
  • We’re hard at work finishing our designs for The Butler on the Threshold, the Lovecraftian variant of What Ho, World and Wizards Aren’t Gentlemen. We’re considering a small crowdfunding campaign just for the print run – will talk to backers about it.

Legacy 2e: Know Your Role!

The relationship between your family and your character is Legacy’s big unique thing, but it’s distinct enough from the standard mode of RPGs that it could do with more support than 1e provided.

One of my priorities with the 2nd edition is to provide you with more tools to describe that relationship – how your family impacts your character, and how your character affects the broader family. To this end, each character in Legacy 2e has a family role: Leader, Agent, Rebel or Outsider.

Welcome to the Family

The first thing this does – and maybe the most useful – is that it locates your character in the family’s organisation.

Leaders are those that guide the family. They might be…

  • An Elder bringing every opponent on board with their plans.
  • Hunter leads the family’s troops to take down a target.
  • A Scavenger making sure every need for food or water is met.

Agents are those sent out from the family on a mission. They could be…

  • A Survivor acting as someone’s bodyguard.
  • A Firebrand infiltrating a group to bring them down.
  • An Envoy sent to negotiate a truce with a faction.

Rebels work against the Family’s orthodoxy. They could be…

  • A Sentinel fighting a threat that doesn’t endanger their own family.
  • A Firebrand trying to make amends for the unintended suffering their actions have caused.
  • An Elder seeking answers when they learn something that overturns their dogma.

Outsiders are only nominally a member of the family. Something’s set them apart – exile, strange beliefs, mutation, or something else. They could be…

  • A Remnant who’s rejected baseline humanity to pursue their own evolution.
  • A Hunter banished after they killed the wrong person, fighting to clear their name.
  • A Survivor who’s decided it’s time to move on.

Working Together

The second effect of your role is that your character applies a particular modifier to family moves. To get this effect, the character has to be one of the family members who participated in the action. This gives you a concrete idea of the impact your character has on the family’s

This (hopefully) gives you a concrete idea of the impact your character has on the family’s efforts and if players have incentives to place their characters in the midst of the family-scale story you can easily zoom into their actions when you want to move to the character scale.

  • Leaders put the family before themselves. If a move tells you to gain a need or to erase a surplus, the Leader can instead take 3-harm (ignores armour).
  • Agents are experts at navigating the wasteland. Your family’s agents can either make a journey twice as fast or travel unseen through a faction’s territory.
  • Rebels have many allies outside the family. They can call on a contact to improve the outcome of a move by one step, but the contact’s faction gets 1-Treaty on you.
  • Outsiders have strange tools or skills. If they help with the move get +1 to the roll as if you’d spent Tech, but their strange practices will colour the move’s results.

You can accept the help of characters from other families if they offer it, but their family automatically gains 1 point of Treaty on yours.

Changing Perspective

Your role isn’t set in stone, either. When you hit particular triggers in the fiction, you move into a new position. In general:

  • When you begin directing, guiding, or bearing responsibility for a group of Family members, you become a Leader.
  • When you accept a particular task that’ll take you out of the Family’s holdings, you become an Agent.
  • When you realise you and the Family have different priorities or values and start pursuing yours, you become a Rebel.
  • When you reject the Family or do something that pushes them away from you, you become an Outsider.

I’m also testing out playbook-specific triggers. For example, here’s the Firebrand’s:

  • When you lead your Family against a greater oppressor, mark Leader.
  • When you infiltrate a group to bring it down, mark Agent.
  • When your actions cause unintended harm, mark Rebel.
  • When your family betrays your creed, mark Outsider.

I’d be interested to know if people think these are too limiting.

Role Advancement

These roles have taken the place of Advancement in 1e; when you switch to a particular role, you mark its box, get +1 to its associated stat, and reveal something about the fiction. For example, when the Firebrand marks Agent (by infiltrating a group to bring it down) they get +1 Steel and say one person who trusts them already, while the GM says one person who suspects.

Another thing I’m testing is unlocking new moves: each new role a character takes on marks a box. Once all are marked, you get a new move and clear out marks. You can switch back and forth between two moves, but that won’t mark more boxes. I think this should give players an incentive to give their characters narrative arcs, but it may mean players pinball between roles very unsatisfyingly. Let’s see what playtesting says.

Thanks for reading – in thanks, here’s an example of our new character playbooks!

UFO Press on Patreon!

I’ve launched a Patreon! Every month I’ll post new RPG content to the Patreon free for all backers. These could be playbooks or scenarios for UFO Press games, subsystems you can drop into ongoing games to do something different for a session, or micro RPGs similar to the ones we wrote for the 200 word RPG challenge:

There are a few other benefits:

  • Patrons get access to early drafts of my bigger games before the wider public.
  • I’ll host regular patron-only Q&As and polls.
  • Patrons above a certain level get full-resolution copies of all the art from UFO Press games I have the license to share.

Why a Patreon?

This patreon has a couple of goals.

First, designing these two for the 200 word challenge was a nice break from my bigger games. It’d be nice to be able to make more without feeling like I was wasting time I could be spending on those other games.

Second, the What Ho, World! kickstarter was quite a bit more expensive than expected. A regular source of funds like this will ensure I can keep UFO Press ticking over.

If you’re interested in being a part of this, go check out the Patreon page!

 

UFO Press: April Update

As I have a few projects on the go at the moment I thought I’d step back and write up where I am with each of them. Enjoy!

Revising the Apocalypse

At the moment I’m elbows-deep in Legacy: Life Among the Ruins, tinkering and tweaking to make a draft for its revised edition. I’m aiming to make it a bit more coherent and better-communicated so that the intended playstyle is both clearer and easier to achieve. Part of that is providing better procedures for moving between the different phases of the game (what I’m working on right now), and part of it is editing the old playbooks so that they hook more directly into the game’s core concept of building a new life in the wasteland and creating the history of a people over generations.

Haunted Space

I recently sent out the current alpha draft of Ghost Ship to some other designers and that gave me a lot of feedback to work on! In particular, it’s clear the ‘you are a post-death brain scan struggling to retain humanity` and ‘you are the crew of a cool starship’ aspects weren’t gelling very well. I’m overhauling the spaceflight and ship rules to put a bit more focus on the effects they have on the characters and their living connections, rather than nuts-and-bolts simulationism.

Other business

Finally, there are a few minor projects to complete (my 200-word RPG contest entries), finishing up Kickstarter fulfilment for What Ho, World and Wizards Aren’t Gentlemen, and maybe putting together a Patreon to keep everything ticking over; shipping for What Ho, World/Wizards Aren’t Gentlemen kicked my ass more than I was expecting, and it’d be nice to have a budget to put into microgames/minor projects/early access drafts.

Hijink system games now available! 

I’ve just made What Ho World and Wizards Aren’t Gentlemen publicly available! These games are one-shot zero prep comedy games, compressed down into a 90-card deck that fits in your pocket.

Loosely based on the Apocalypse World engine, What Ho, World tries to evoke Wodehousian humour: feckless gentlemen of leisure, dependable servants and meddling great-aunts.

Wizards Aren’t Gentlemen, on the other hand, takes its inspiration from Jack Vance and Terry Pratchett – naive apprentices, squabbling wizards, and scheming demons bound into service!
Both games are available here, on Amazon (UK only) (https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dtoys&field-keywords=ufo+press+storytelling&rh=n%3A468292%2Ck%3Aufo+press+storytelling) or Print-on-Demand at DriveThruRPG (https://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/6097/UFO-Press/subcategory/19570_27513/Hijink-system).

I’ve also uploaded YouTube videos talking about what the deck contains and how to play the game – see here: link to YouTube.

I’m very proud of them, and I hope you take a look!

Ghost Ship v0.1.3 now out

A spaceship, being assaulted by asteroids, yesterday.

I’ve just uploaded a new version of Ghost Ship. New in this edition:

  • Ship construction rules.
  • Drone and Ship modules.
  • Programs for your characters to use.
  • Strange quirks for characters to develop.
  • And much more!

It’s still not quite playable, but it’s getting close and closer all the time!

Check out the new version and handouts here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B4KAK_EamMB9bXZYazJPOVVwRkk?usp=sharing

Ghost Ship: Draft now available to read!

Ghost Ship isn’t anywhere near complete – I don’t even think it’s playable – but as I put a draft together for some friends to look over I thought I might as well put it up here for everyone else to check out. If you’re interested, here’s the main book:

And here’s the Google Drive folder with character sheets and so on:

Ghost Ship

Quick Characters for Legacy

One of the things I’m hard at work on is a revised edition of Legacy. Part of this process is to identify bits of the original version that didn’t quite work in play: the one I’m talking about today is character focus. One common complaint is that with every player getting their own faction, games often devolve into players taking it in turns to have solo scenes interacting with their families. While I’m also working on structuring the game so that there’s more to push characters to work together, I wanted something to liven up those single-family scenes.

My solution for this was Quick Characters. If you want to play out a particular player character’s actions in detail but the fiction makes it implausible for the other major characters to be involved, the other players take control of members of the active player’s Family using simplified playbooks. These playbooks give some options to flesh out your character, but mostly inherit stats from the active players family.

Using these new characters, you play through the story as normal until it’s time to shift focus to another family or character. At that point, the group can choose – either each player can keep these minor playbooks in case focus returns to that family, or the playbooks can go into a group pool for anyone to pick up as the situation desires. If you’re familiar with Ars Magica’s troupe play rules, this is intended to create a similar effect.

Here’s the playbooks:

How they work

Quick Characters still use the Character basic moves, and have Force, Lore, Steel and Sway, but have simplified playbooks. They inherit a stat line, a move and gear from their Family, enabling them to be generated quickly.

We haven’t written up the family side of this completely yet, but here’s an example:

Enclave of Forgotten Lore Quick Characters:

Stats:

Add +1 to Lore or Steel.

Gear:

Take gear according to your Surplus investment (more on this later), +1 to Data or Outfit.

Inheritance Move options:

  • Radio Rig: Can sense when Tech is within a mile, and track it down to within 100 metres.
  • Pain Box: You have a device that causes intense pain in anyone within a few dozen metres (melee, nonlethal, area, hi-tech).
  • Survey drone: You can roll +Lore with Wasteland Survival, so long as your trail is visible from the air.
  • Hot Rod: You have an exceptionally fast vehicle (land-based, Might 1 Chrome 1 Brawn 0), and can move points between its stats with 15 minutes of tinkering.
  • Educated: If you give advice to somebody based on your knowledge of the Before, they take +1 Forward.

Ghost Ship: Attack of the Drones

While a ship piloted by Ghosts can react quicker, travel further and need far fewer resources than a human-piloted vessel, a physical presence is still required for a crew to perform most of the tasks people are willing to pay big money for. The game’s solution for this is drones. A robotic shell housing a modified Ghost core, each drone is precisely tailored for their Ghost and is much an extension of them as a living person’s hand. The core in the drone runs an up-to-date version of the Ghost, experiencing the world from the drone’s perspective. Their experience is streamed back to the Ghost’s main core back in the ship, which is in a trance as they incorporate the drone’s feed into their memory and personality.

Thanks to the delicately engineered link between the two cores and streaming algorithms that prioritise which sensations and thoughts to stream based on available bandwidth, the experiences of the drone core are seamlessly integrated into the Ghost’s mind. Meanwhile, the locally present Ghost core allows the drone to function well even when the signal back to the ship has been cut or the time delay back to the ship becomes too great.

From a design perspective, Drones to a few helpful things:

  • They give you a physical body, meaning that your interaction with the world isn’t limited to command prompts and communication channels.
  • They mean there’s a sense of risk and danger to missions that’s a step less severe than the ship blowing up.
  • They provide a means of customisation and personalization, helping the players express their character’s personality at the table.

Drone Frames

Your main choice when picking your drone is its Frame. This gives you the basic environment the drone is built for, and the particular actions it’s proficient at. Frames have three ratings of particular importance: how durable they are, how quickly they can move, and how dextrous their manipulators are.

At game start, there are three Frames available, but more will unlock according to events in the solar system.

Pictures by Juan Ochoa – support his patreon here: https://www.patreon.com/juanochoa

Humanoid

The squat, bulky Humanoid frame is impossible to confuse for a human, but still allows you to perform most human-scale tasks.

Pros: High manual dexterity, humans find it easier to interact with, can pick up and operate designed-for-human equipment.

Cons: Low durability, limited space for mods and extra functions.

EVA

Light weight and an array of thrusters make this frame perfect at manoeuvring in zero-g.

Pros: Can explore zero-g environments with ease, can run indefinitely on solar power, plenty of space for mods.

Cons: doesn’t cope with gravity, distance from human body plan means it’s not very good at relieving Discarnate stress.

Explorer

With a rugged chassis and the ability to walk, swim and dig, this frame is great for missions on or beneath the surface of hostile planets and moons.

Pros: High durability, can operate in most environments.

Cons: low dexterity, difficult to retrieve once dispatched to a planet’s surface.

Dangers

Early experiments with Ghosts found that a physical presence resulted in a substantial improvement in psychological health and wellbeing. This close connection can have its downsides, however, especially when a mission stops going to plan. Here’s a selection of things that can go wrong with a drone:

  • Its memory buffer becomes too full, meaning that some memories are erased.
  • It gets destroyed, preventing the transition back to ship-Ghost from being cleanly managed.
  • It gets isolated, such that it starts operating independently of the ship-Ghost.
  • It can’t be retrieved, meaning you must go the rest of the flight without incarnation.