Friday, December 19, 2014

Interview with Two Teen Game-Writers

As mentioned in a previous post, two of my 8th grade students, Katherine and Alexandra, have been inspired to write and run their own role-playing games for their peers.  Recently I sat down to talk with them about their games ...

JP: Hey Katherine and Alexandra, thanks for taking some time to talk about the role-playing games you created.  To start off, what are they called?

K: "Radaria (pronounced 'ruh-DARE-ee-yuh').  It's a mix of the word 'war' and something else in a different language ... I don't remember which ... that's where the 'rad' came from, I added the 'aria'."

A: "My game's name is 'Lorel'."

JP: Cool.  I name things in my games by playing around with real-world languages too -- Welsh and Tagalog are especially neat.  Can you briefly describe your game for our readers -- what's the main idea, conflict, or player goal?

K: "It's a  game similar to Labyrinth Lord and it's good versus bad.  You have two different kings [NPCs] and you send messages to other members of your team, back and forth, about what you want to do.  Whomever captures the other team's king first wins.  You can pass note cards back and forth or you can talk with team members.

A: "The main point [of Lorel] is to get in and out of the map with the most treasure and a lot of levels."

JP: What were your sources of inspiration?  Which books, movies, comics, or games influenced your ideas?

K: "It was playing Labyrinth Lord and Arkham High [a Buffy The Vampire Slayer themed d20 homebrew].  That was fun."

A: "My inspiration came from really liking monsters!"

       

JP: What sorts of rules did you decide to use?  

K: "Rule-wise each character class has special abilities and some have higher skills than others ... they are better at doing certain things.  You roll a 20-sided dice to make skill tests.  If you have a wizard and they cast a spell in order to defeat the king then on a 10+ they kill the king, but if you have an elf maybe she needs a 14+ to succeed.  Elves can fly on certain dice rolls (5+), but they can only do it for a very short amount of time.  A Spy can take some of the classified documents from their side's king."

A: "I used some of the mechanics from Labyrinth Lord.  Most of the time events [are judged] by how high you roll; if you roll a 10 or higher on a d20-sider then that [attempt] is most likely going to happen [succeed].  During combat or when interacting with others they have to roll the enemy's armor class or higher."

JP: Wow, so Katherine, you have traitors built into your competing teams of players?

K: "Yeah.  There are two kings: King Magnelius (bad) and a good King.  I'm still editing some things.  Players asked if we could add new character classes and other options for characters to take, so I'm adding things they wanted to see.  I always take an even number of players, divided in half of course, until one of the characters dies."

JP: How do you guys handle character death?  How common is it?

K: "It really depends on the characters.  It's not usually that common; the game lasts for a while unless they do something foolish on purpose.  It gets more common once they [the two factions] start to meet up during the game.  

The players asked if characters could each have different homes [lairs] of their own, so that when a character died they could go to their home and take the stuff the dead character had.

The player [of the dead character] sits out for the rest of the session unless there is a witch, in which case she can take their soul and place it into another object and then they come back into the game.  The same thing happens with an elf on the good side -- he doesn't take their soul, he can just can revive them."

A: "If a character dies in Lorel they get three chances to roll their armor class or above.  If they succeed they roll a six-sider to see how much health they get [have left]."

JP: What other interesting rules do your games feature? 

K: "Well, players pass index cards back and forth between each other and to tell the GM what they want to do.  They each have their own map and I tell them where they start out and they get to decide where they want to move and what they want to do.  I mark it down for each team."

JP: That's pretty cool -- that 's what war game designers call a "double blind" game -- neither side can see the other side's tactical choices until they are affected by them.  Which rule or sub-system are you the happiest with?

K: "The different powers ... the abilities that each character class has worked out really well.  Elves fly and have super speed.  Ogres have super strength.  Griffons play for the good king -- they can't talk and the only people who can understand them are the Archers.  There are dragons for the bad team and they are similar to the griffons, but they know secret pathways and stuff ... they start with a different map [handout].  

There are four character classes on each side and each member of a class has the same abilities, but they can find additional abilities along the way.  The kings, they are sorcerers, can grant them new powers too."

A: "I wanted each character to be something that had incredible and unbelievable power."


JP: How much of a role does random chance play in your game?

K: "So if someone says something that's not in the rules and you just go with it, I think that's more fun!  For example, if they find a potion and they want to drink it then I have them roll.  A 10 and below something bad happens; a 10 and above something good happens or there is no effect."

 A: "[Lorel] is very random!"

JP: Does each of your sessions have a set plotline and events that players are supposed to follow or are their choices and the action entirely up to the players?

K: "It's entirely up to them -- there is nothing they have to follow unless the king gives them something to do.  Though if they start meeting up [and getting into player vs player combat / interactions] and the king wants them to stop what they are doing, then they have to.  The kings are controlled by the GM."

A: "Each session does have a plot line.  They [the players] get to choose where to go, but they always go to the final destination.  When they get there, they face a boss."

JP: Do you have any thoughts about publishing your games in the future?

K: "Yeah that would be fun!"

A: "Yes, I've thought about publishing and I may do so when I feel like [Lorel] is done."

JP: Thank you both for sharing!  It sounds like you have some great ideas -- keep on playing and trying out new stuff!