First month of 2023 and a lot has been made! As stated in the previous article, my immediate focus is to finish the core rulebook to propose in Early Access on itch.io. With that in mind, here is the breakdown of what is has been tackled in January:
- New 2xA4 character sheet design. Thanks to the feedback of the beta-testers, I manage to design a satisfying version of the Character sheet (you can join the discord server and find pictures over there)
- Refactored the Common Item list, which led to the removal of items that were… meh or unusable (like traps), but also to merging of similar items into one generic category (Bombs, Drugs…). The book pages related to Items have been finalized as well.
- Item card design. I still have to create the “Print & Play” content, but at least, I have the design for an item in the form of a playing card.
- Trimmed a bit the number of fonts in the Core Rule book and picked a legible typeface (Libertine Linux G) for the text blocks. It’s mostly invisible work but it helped make the whole book easier to read.
- Another pass on the Traits, both on the content and how I wanted to present the full list in the book. I’m down to 119 different traits for the Core Rulebook and more can be added in future modules for instance. The book pages related to Traits have been finalized as well.
- I have also spent a bit of time designing an easy to read NPC page. The final design is, in my opinion, satisfying. I just have to create the monster that will go in the core rulebook. On our discord, the current discussion topic is about these NPC profiles: Should there be a Monster Manual?
Thanks again to the Discord community that gave feedback on several aspects of the game for which I needed extra pairs of eyes, like the Character Sheet. Click on the link to join the Loop ‘n’ Loot Discord server and jump in the various discussion around the development of the game!
As a treat for the new year, the profile for a Bear NPC, as it would appear in the core rulebook 🙂
November and December 2022 have been somewhat of slow months for Loop ‘n’ Loot. Between work at the school supervising my students making their own video game (60 students for 5 week in a single title, it has been an adventure, check out their game RAM on itch.io!) and the Christmas holiday break, not many hours were dedicated to design the latest iteration of the game (which is v9, by the way).
Nevertheless, we went to HexCon in Trondheim and I manage to squeeze one playtest in December. Both of them confirmed my lastest design choices, that I now have to present in the core rule book:
- Simplification of the the number of Slots: 2 Hands, 1 Head, 1 Torso, 1 Legs and 4 Backpack. We simplified a lot since the very beginning and the 18 slots for items! I’m still pondering over the number of “Brain” Slots for Traits…
- Solidification of memories: Made of two words, the player creates a memory that can be used to draw 1 more card before resolving a Test. See the HexCon link above for a longer explanation.
- Item Cards: All items that are tied to Action/Reaction (ex: a Hand Weapon has an Attack Action, a Shield a Block Reaction) are now playing cards that can be used during Test. A Hand weapon that is a 8 Clubs can be added to the cards in hand to make a Combination for the Attack Action. Item cards also implies “Trait cards” which is another limonade to brew…
- New status effects: Bleed replaces Poison, Poison replaces Disease, Blind has a new mechanic (you can’t look at your own hand, haha).
- A3 Character sheet format, to put the item cards on it. Yet to be designed.
- Game balancing: It will be a continuous task over the coming months to tweak values, here and there. Nothing major, but I have to make nothing is too broken… I think the first order of business is put Defense at 1 for Humanoid instead of 0.
If I were to wrap-up the 2022 year for Loop ‘n’ Loot: Amazing! Lots of conventions (Arcon, MidgardCon, RegnCon and HexCon) presenting the game and meeting new enthousiastic gamers, lots of playtest with friends… And overall, I believe the v9 of the game might actually be the one that ends up to be the Early Access version later in 2023!
Speaking of 2023, let’s make a wishlist of what should happen for Loop ‘n’ Loot:
- Releasing the game in Early Access on Itch.io! I’m thinking of using this platform to release the game at first, gather some feedback and maybe balance some numbers and add desired features. But a release, even a EA, implies that I must finish the core rule book content first…
- Finishing the Maze of the 4 Queens content! I’m missing backstories, final monsters, some rooms, a lot of random generator tables… I’m still working on that book parallely to the core book. This is the first module for the TTRPG and there is a lot left to do, so as much as I want to to the #Dungeon23 challenge I can’t afford to spread my efforts :/ But if you want to make a #Dungeon23 for Loop ‘n’ Loot, just ping me 🙂
- Starting on a setting book for Loop ‘n’ Loot! Loop ‘n’ Loot core book is designed to be settingless, so anyone can adapt the rules to a fantasy, sci-fi, urban, etc. setting easily. A bit like FATE, or DnD with Brancalonia, Ravenloft and Dark Sun for instance. BUT, marketing-wise it is way more appealing for customers to have a setting book attached to the core rule book! That book would have lore, a map, ready to play adventure sites and support multiple session campaign. And it’s the part where I want to involve the most the community…
- Growing the community! We use discord most of foremost (here is a permanent link if you are not part of it yet) and I want to use the space a bit more, notably via surveys to help me shape the future of the game and that setting book I just mentioned.
- Balancing the game! Which means… MOAR PLAYTESTS! It also mean more DMs. Once again, every is organised via Discord, so just jump in!
- Going to more conventions! I’ll be going to Arcon again for instance but I think it would be beneficial to also go to some conventions abroad (i.e. out of Norway) to help increasing the awareness around the game (and maybe have a getaway weekend with my fiancee :p). I’m also planning to visit some local gaming club in Norway is they are within driving distance of Oslo. My first stop will likely be the one in Hamar.
- Setting-up a Kofi page! And propose there some extra print-&-play content at a minimum fee, like for instance the Item/Traits Cards.
- Kickstarting the paper core rule book! Will it happen in 2023? Will it be on kickstarter? I don’t know, it’s post EA and many of the previous bullet points must be done first… It also implies logistical issues that need to be foresee first.
That is already quite a lot for 2023. So enough talking, more designing! Let’s conclude this post with another sneak peak of the core book:
See ya again on Discord or for the January 2023 Wrap-up!
I’m super late with the October Wrap-Up post. Mostly because work has taken the better part of my brain capacity as my students were in the process of making the pre-prod documentation for their first big scale video game project (65 students working together on a single game for 5 weeks, that ought to be interesting).
October was full of playtests as I went to both MidgardCon and RegnCon to present the latest iteration of Loop ‘n’ Loot. As I already wrote in the forementioned retro-linked articles, the feedback was really positive and people enjoyed playing the game.
But I was unsatisfied with some game mechanics and extra mental charge for the players and referee. By the way, should I keep “referee” for the GM name for Loop ‘n’ Loot? Should it be “the Dealer”? “The Croupier”? Let me know what you think in the comments! Or join the Discord server to start a discussion around it!
The hours dedicated to game design for Loop ‘n’ Loot allowed me to work on:
- Consolidating the Math around the new values for Attributes (ranging for 0 to 3 now instead of 1 to 5). It was especially important to make sure it worked because the hand size is now a consequence of these values.
- And to make sure it’s working in order, the Tool Item have been reworked along with a brand new mechanics called “Memories” attached to the soul traits. The key word association had really good feedback and help with the randomisation of the game (which is a pillar in itself). The Memories will be gain by absorbing Soul Traits and will have 2 keywords (ex: “kick” + “door”) and the player will be responsible to come up with a memory associated with them (ex: “the NPC from which I got the memory has his house on fire, family trapped inside, he kick the front to reach her daughter and save her from the flames”, any other player would come with a different example). Then, when making a test, the player could call back to a memory to increase the hand size by one IF the memory is relevant. In our example, the memory is obviously relevant to dramatically open a locked door, but it could also be used for a Test against Fear or how to extinguish a fire…
- Tools, taking your time, memories are mean to increase your hand size when doing a non-combat test. Let’s imagine a player want to bash a door open. Their Value in Clubs determine the initial hand size (3). The referee sets the difficulty at 3 (it’s a nice door, well crafted, and everyone knows doors are the main obstacle for adventurers). The player says they have a crowbar Tool, +1 hand size. They invoke the “Kick Door” memory, it’s relevant, +1 hand size. The total card to draw is 5.
- The Soul Trait mechanic has changed. You used to get 1 random trait on absorption. I was fine, honestly, especially for the players. But the referee had a lot of work to do create NPC and a lot to track in combat, especially with Humanoid character that can have Traits AND equipment. Now when absorbing a Soul, players will have to state where the Soul is absorbed: Head, Torso, Legs, Hand 1, Hand 2 or Mental slots. Each slot would have either a Trait or a Memory. It does not change much from a player perspective except they have more agency when they evolve their character. On the referee’s side, it means that the maximum amount of things to manage on a NPC is cap to 6. I’ll spare you the details but to come up with that solution, there has been 2 different new designed and trashed Soul Traits systems before reaching that – I believe – elegant solution.
- If you played Loop ‘n’ Loot before, you would notice that the number of Character Slots has been reduced. Everything is a consequence of something.
- Less Slots + Memories = New character sheet!
- All items and Traits have been re-balanced to fit the new system! It was a lot of work..
- Finally, I designed and created the NPC cards for Maze of the 4 Queens. I have 27 of them. The number might go down a bit, it sure won’t increase until the potential Kickstarter (which will likely have “create your own room+monster” pledge).
All in all, I’m really happy about the state of the game. It was a lot of headaches. A lot! But streamlining all the game components and make them simple while keeping them interconnected and supporting character versatility was primordial!
I will be playtesting that new iteration of the rules at HexCon in Trondheim, this week-end (12-13 November). So if you are in the vicinity or know people who would be, share the good words :).
As usual, let’s conclude the wrap-up with a sneak peak of what is happening behind the scenes with the NPC card.
September Wrap-Up time!
I finally got an opportunity to playtest the latest iteration of “Maze of the 4 Queens” and the August changes with a live group in Oslo. The session was fun, but a bit clunky as the game was in an in-between stage, especially with the new WIP Traits.
Something was feeling off after the session, and it gave me a lot of headaches both trying to figure out what that “something” was and how to fix it.
- Players don’t die fast enough. It is still an issue. And it has potential fixes already. The amount of HP will have to get a second pass. But I think it also has to do with the pace of the game and how it is presented to players. Which reminds me of the latest article from Spriggan’s Den. Designing an adventure for Loot ‘n’ Loot is different from making an OSR module, in the sense that character preservation is not as important. Living YOLO and experimenting is key: shorter dungeons, clearer objectives, telegraphed traps & loot.
- The Referee has still too much to manage on their end with NPCs. Too many traits, too many weapons. And then, it falls back on the PCs who have too much loot to go through. The excitement of surviving a tough fight hits the ground pretty fast 4 Souls and 20 pieces of gear have to be sorted. But cutting content is not just enough to solve the issue. Or rather, it’s not enough if it’s not done mindfully. In order to do so, I had to go back to the root of my game, the pillars: Simplicity, Synergy, Fun. Willing to create too many synergies removed the simplicity of my game, on many different aspects: weapons, NPC, Traits.
Therefore, I took a lot of time pondering on the necessity of each element of the game:
- Too many weapons, I removed everything that was not “common gear “and decided to limit the game to 26 basic gear.
- Too many traits, especially on Humanoid characters who also have gear. A character should have max 4-5 abilities that have an effect in combat (Traits+Gear). The rest of the Traits, if any, should be for social/exploration. As of today, I classified Traits into “mostly combat” (126) and “exclusively non combat” (39), after a lot of merging and cutting.
- Upgrading Traits over multiple runs is a mechanic I removed completely. Now, at Death, a PC loses everything but Souls; they have the option to destroy some Souls to carry any piece of gear or Trait to their next incarnation.
- Gear and Traits now both occupy Character Slots (previously Equipment Slots) as Slots are mechanically cousins. Getting Horns prevents you from having a Helmet, right? Then it makes sense the Trait Horns and the Equipment Helmet should be put on a Head slot. So reworking the Traits also implied finding Slots for them.
- Speaking of slots, I removed the 8 slots for inventory. Now, they are only Character Slots and if a PC wants to carry more loot, they should grab a Satchel.
- The character creation has been revamped to enhance the randomness of starting gear.
- All these changes created collateral damage on other parts of the game, namely the Character Sheet.
Everything will be playtesting this very weekend at MidgardCon!
Let’s conclude with another small tease with a sneak peak at some of the new Traits.
August Wrap-Up time! A lot of things have happened in the game design sphere as well as in the editing world of Loop ‘n’ Loot:
- The “Defense” mechanic is now officially replacing the “Soak” one. Basically, when you declare an Action with the “Damage” keyword against a Target, the Target’s Defense value is indicating how many cards must be at least committed for the Action to connect. In other words, it’s harder to bash a dude in Heavy Armor than a naked one. This new mechanic implies tweaks on several minor parts of the game, like items or traits balancing.
- Two new pages have appeared in the core rules book. The item price page has been refactored for more content and easier parsing.
- A good chunk of Traits has been removed (or recycled into Items/Spell ideas) as there were underwhelming or “off-brand”. The remaining ones are currently being revamped to be upgradable over the course of multiple runs (you can call that “meta-progression).
- All “Thrown” weapons have been merged with Ranged weapons, as they were mechanically the same.
- Kept working on Maze of the 4 Queens, as of today I’m only missing 6 rooms in the book. Some tables have been started (random events, random loot) and things that won’t show anywhere.
- I have also cleaned my playtest setting into a playable booklet, which I intend to sell for a minimal price on Ko-fi when the Core Rule Book gets released.
All in all, things are moving forwards!
If you live in Norway, don’t forget to put the following events in your calendar as Loop ‘n’ Loot will be demo’d at:
- MidgardCon (Borre NO) – 30 September – 2 October 2022
- Regncon XXX (Bergen NO) – 7-9 October 2022
- Hexcon (Trondheim NO) – 5-6 November 2022
It’s your chance to playtest the game system as well as the WIP version of Maze of the 4 Queens.
And to conclude the August Wrap-Up, the aforementioned new double page in the core book!
July has been somewhat of a slow month with well-deserved vacation abroad. But I managed to sneak in some work the past couple of weeks once back in Norway.
- A combat playtest happened with my French group, to discuss my planned evolution of Soak. Bottom line, I want to remove Soak.
- Reason 1: There is a lot of “subtraction time” in combat, which also includes repeated noise turn after turn (“You take 9 Damage, I ignore 1 Soak because of my Vicious1 , subtract your Soak, that’s your Wounds”).
- Reason 2: I want to simplify the game wherever I can. At the moment, we have Damage and Wound, two different concepts around life loss. I’d like to streamline them to a single one.
- Reason 3: I want the game to be viewed as “fun lethal”, you can die pretty fast if you are careless but that’s OK. The concept of Soak, reducing damage (therefore giving at least the associated idea of protection/you’re safe), is antinomic to my goal.
- The replacement system will assess all of these, speed up combat and be more tied up with cards.
- A lot of pondering to simplify the game and get a snappier experience for the players and less “mental charge” on the Referee. The number of enemy types is decreased from 3 to 2, the number of Equipment slots from 9 to 8, still pondering with merging Legs Slot and Trinket Slot to go down to 7.
- A good chunk of work was on Maze of the 4 Queens, the first module for Loop ‘n’ Loot. It has been playtested during Arcon 38, the validated rooms have been put in a book layout (29 rooms, 11 left to design). They also each got 4 random events. I did a bit of refactoring on the dungeon creation as well adding more opportunities for just corridors. I removed the glitch effect (ex: a probability to have a room fully underwater for instance) because too much mental charge on the Referee.
And to conclude, here is a sneak peak of that module!