Friday, March 23, 2012

HoS: What Needs to Improve

Yesterday I outlined a couple of elements of Houses of Stone which, I think, made it particularly enjoyable. Today, I want to talk about a few things I need to do better when the game launches again in a few weeks...

  • Planning:
    • Normally, I shoot from the hip. This works impeccably well with NPC interactions, events, reactions of the world, etc. Shooting from the hip works best, though, within pre-established geographical and architectural locations. By this I mean that I need the city, buildings, caves, underground cities, etc all laid out and stocked. The NPCs should have one-liner personality, motive, and objective descriptions. This will make shooting from the hip more effective and allow me the comfort of knowing what's in the sandbox before the PCs get there.
  • Turning it up to 11:
    • Houses of Stone, as it existed for five game sessions, was barely a level 1 world, in terms of challenge and lethality. Being more proactive in planning and design will allow me to add to the challenge, difficulty, and potential lethality that players will see as they play. This will also help me establish baselines for what PC capabilities players will be disallowed, allowed, etc.
  • Puzzling:
    • The unanimous response I got in every bit of feedback about the game was that people loved the puzzles, the questions, the mysteries. A lot of these were off the cuff ideas I had or moments where I said to myself "I know there should be a trap, puzzle, or mystery here but I didn't plan it out... let's see what the PCs try and assign odds to how likely each solution is." I call this "quantum mechanics of DMing" or as one player put it "Schrodinger's puzzle."
    • I don't want to remove this method of DMing and design. It works very well and is a lot of fun. However, I do want to temper it with real design. If the sandbox contains all sorts of things for players to discover, it needs to have some things that will confound them, as well as things that adapt to their attempts.

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