Wednesday, June 24, 2015

City of Judas: how the design process started

Back to the design process of City of Judas. Again, I’d love to hear your opinions – as fellow game designers and as players as well. So feel free to comment, ask questions, present your own experiences!

Click here for the first part

How it started
As I wrote in the introduction to the manual, I was lucky enough to put my hands on the Dark Age beta version from Vincent Baker. It was an inspiring game, and the sessions I’ve ran, at the table or in forums, where always really good.
Now that I designed my own game, I fully understand why Vincent needed to take his time between the various releases of the different versions of his Dark Age game. But back then, after playing the first beta, and while waiting for the next, I grew very impatient.
I didn’t design any AW-hack before, and I thought: “Well, if he doesn’t put out a new version soon, I will”.
And I thought also: “How hard could it be?”
It turned out to be of course harder than I expected, and way more exciting and rewarding, a great and interesting experience. And frustrating at times, tiring. But most of all, it became clear that it was necessarily a slow process. It took me a year from the first public beta to the manual now published, and I had the luck of having a lot of time on my hands to work on it.

Where did I start
Honestly, I don’t remember exactly but there were two things: the Harm Moves (which were inspired by Paul Taliesin), and the Playbooks, and especially the Barber.
While I was still undecided about how I was going to approach the subject (doing my own AW-hack or not, work perhaps with DW instead, or FATE…), I drafted an alternative combat system for Dungeon World. That system was never really tested and I believe it never made it to any real game at the table, but it stuck with me. It felt rough, harsh, and with a flavor to it, something that made it different from AW or DW harm for example.
It felt exactly like the things I would have liked in a slightly crunchy fantasy RPG with bloody, risky combat. And it had no Hit Points, but a Health Counter, from +3 to -3 like a Stat.
Then there was the Barber. Later on I think I’ve read somewhere that Vincent - if I recall correctly, I might be wrong actually - designed the Angel as the first of the AW playbooks. If that’s true, it was a nice coincidence that I got to design the Barber as the first playbook of my own AW-hack (the Barber is the medieval surgeon, and the “healer” in the City of Judas game).
And then I started to play around with some ideas for this dark, medieval setting, and one by one the other Playbooks followed.

And what about you guys; does anyone what to share how did they start to write their game?
Where did the inspiration come from?

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