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!
The previous weekend, I was in Bergen to present Loop ‘n’ Loot at RegnCon XXX (literally the convention of rain, which is accurate given it always rains in Bergen). It was the occasion to see familiar faces, meet new ones and play some games!
I had three pools over the weekend, so 15 hours of play with 15 different players and I used the opportunity to test the latest version of the rules as well as see how the Maze of the 4 Queens is resilient over multiple runs.
Among the positive evolutions of the game, let’s note:
- 2 out of 3 groups died. Several times. Which is by design. The group who did not die had maybe a bit more luck with the randomness and almost always got the better initiative in combat, in addition to playing it safe. The various adjustments have paid off so far.
- The combat seemed to be capped at 2 or 3 turns before one side got obliterated, which is – once again – as per design. So, cool!
- I’m genuinely happy with the randomness and the emergent stories that the Maze creates. A group ended the playtest in a very satisfying way as they looted all the amphoras in a cellar and started a new vintage wine trade company.
- More players got to test the freeform magic system and they seemed to like it.
- The new Attributes and draw mechanics. I remove the fixed hand size to have it depend on the Attributes (putting emphasis on “my character is more sneaky than you”), giving extra cards given tools, environment, time… On paper, it works. Sometimes it felt a bit underwhelming to draw only 2 cards to solve a test. In a way, the new drawing mechanic feels quite similar to the narrative dice from the Genesys system and, as a GM, I need to put more emphasis on how the players intend to revolve an action to give them the adequate hand size.
Among the things that I mixed feelings:
- The new iteration of Soul Traits was not part of the playtest but I’m still thinking about it and what it could be. It seems like the playtesters enjoy absorbing souls a lot, and getting monster traits. I’m afraid the next iteration of the soul mechanics removes that excitement. But it’s a problem of a future playtest to determine.
- I made small equipment cards to facilitate the playtest while giving or switching equipment pieces. It was not greatly efficient. I would need to create color-coded equipment pieces to find what I need more quickly. Or find a different system.
- My brilliant idea of a character sheet pamphlet is looking less and less attractive, especially with all these tiny pieces of paper for representing equipment and flipping the character sheet back and forth. Maybe a boring single-sided sheet will have to be the way to go.
All in all, I can safely say that everyone liked to play Loot ‘n’ Loot. They enjoyed the game mechanics with the cards, they liked adventuring in the Maze of the 4 Queens, they appreciated my NPCs and how I roleplayed them…
Speaking of roleplay, a 1-hour improv’ course was available for those who wanted to know more about that kind of acting. I signed up for it and it was quite fun; it was not really targeted at role-players but I think I got one or two extra tips I could use.
It was a fun convention, with free ice-cream, free pop-corn, free fruits and free cakes! I met new people, got to spread a bit of love around my game and I hope to have something physical to show at RegnCon XXXI.
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.