With my vacation nearly at an end, and a new year upon us, I wanted to quickly finish out this two-part Slate article. I don't honestly have the best news, but I at least wanted to provide everyone with an update of what I've had a chance to work on.
To Serve Her Wintry Hunger
My top priority project this week, with Ten Candles still at the printers (I am angrily staring at my mailbox until a proof appears), has been To Serve Her Wintry Hunger. The timeline for this game has escalated unexpectedly, as the anthology Seasonally Affected has very suddenly had the dust blown off of it and is moving very, very, quickly.
I received a lot of great feedback at METATOPIA regarding this game, and I have revisited it with a comb and a red pen in earnest. The newest version is shaping up much more solidly than the original, and I think that that's something games need. Rulebooks are a foundation, and if they aren't solid then players and GMs won't feel as comfortable standing on them and building stories.
To Serve is a weird little project, because the game itself has a voice, and that voice sets the mood of the entire game - which is to say - the game can be kind of a jerk. An interesting lesson from my playthroughs at METATOPIA were that despite a content warning that this game could get a little mean, players weren't expecting it from the game itself.
Another piece of design I've struggled with is creating a game that is also in many ways a poem. One of my favorite parts of To Serve is that it's a beautiful game to read through cover to cover. Even if you aren't playing it, you will experience it in a wholly new and beautiful way just reading it's prose start to finish. However, that can make clarity incredibly tricky.
Finally, I've been hacking away at some of the more confusing questions. Which makes me sad, of course, but also makes a lot of sense. For example, one question prompt was:
Speak of the snow and how it shifts, and gusts, and blinds. Describe every snowflake.
The prompt is inherently meant to be impossible and poetic. You're not supposed to literally describe every snowflake. You're just supposed to talk about the snow. But, practically every playtest would have players confused after this question. So, this one (and others like it) are getting an overhaul for clarity's sake. Things will wind up a little less poetic and a little more playable, but that's not a bad thing and I'm pretty okay with it.
Speak of Gathers
Speak of Gathers did not see as much work as I was hoping. The original card file doc I used for METATOPIA vanished in the great computer migration, and while I have the hard copies from the convention, it's been a bit tricky to get everything set back up.
Most of my time spent with this game has been spent pouring over the notes provided from my playtests. I want the game to exist as a rulebook with a deck of cards, but it is more and more looking like the entire game could be contained in the deck. I'm not sure how I feel about that.
Moving forward with SoG, the biggest changes to be made happen in the first ten minutes of gameplay. I don't want too much world building to be done pre-game because I adore the effectiveness the question and answer process has in worldbuilding. I want to incorporate a clear order-of-play, lay out the laws of the game, and figure out how much I want to delve into a Legacy aspect of the game. I also still have a bit of thinking to do on body language. I enjoy body language being a component of the game, but I don't want it to be a game about body language. Body language grows organically from the game already and I feel that all I may need to do in regards to it is simply mention something about it up front to draw people's attention to it and see what happens.
So, SoG is not as together as I wanted, but it's coming along nicely.
All in all, the staycation was worthwhile. I wound up being somewhat forced to do real life, with a bit of unexpected but much-needed self-care on the side. In the end, one thing is certain. There are some great games inbound this year!