game beta; the adventure begins

Familiar Territory, Unfamiliar Experience

As I explained in my previous post, my game design project is a campaign module for the renowned tabeltop RPG — Dungeons & Dragons, using the Fifth Edition ruleset. Because this is my first time at the other side of the table as Dungeon Master, I’ve enlisted the help of experienced friends and online resources to inform my design. In this post, I will outline my progress in designing this adventure so far.

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Theme and Narrative; you all meet in a tavern…

I chose a setting that I’ve wanted to explore in a fantasy RPG for a while; a group of outcast adventurers in a travelling circus troupe that tour from city to city for money, while also encountering different subquests along the way. This general plot may sound familiar to Critical Role’s Mighty Nein campaign, and that’s because it is in a way. However, I want to set it apart as its own story by making the many quests and encounters within the module have narrative depth and weight that affects each character in the party significantly. In order to achieve this, I decided my module would come with pre-made character sheets that are highly recommended to use in the adventure. Each city on route for the tour of Mahléza Miserion’s Travelling Menagerie will have a plot hook directly relating to each character’s backstory, something that a DM usually does not know much about for a player-made character until their first play session. I spent a lot of time developing different characters based on circus acts and performances, while brainstorming a cultural conflict for my adventure world that would place them as outcasts within the game world. For this story, that conflict would have the mixing of different races be a taboo topic, leaving half-human children rejected by society and living on the outskirts of privileged lifestyles.

>>Click here << to see the finished (tentative) character sheets for this module

While I’ve made significant progress in my narrative by finishing each pre-made character sheet (using modular, class-based character sheet templates from DM’s guild), I’m yet to begin fleshing out the world around them and giving names to different places referenced in their backstories. I plan to now begin my write-up about the world as an introduction to the campaign, as well as develop a continent map for the game world. There are many resources online about map-making for fantasy RPG’s that I will make use of for this task. Once this is done, I can start creating encounters and quests to fill out each town on the character’s tour route.

Game Mechanics and Rules; proficiency in homebrewing

“A thematic mechanic, or a thematic mechanism, is one that is so integrally tied to the theme of the game that if you were to remove it, it would change the experience of the game itself. If you want to retain your theme, try to tie it in as tightly to the mechanics of your game as possible.”

Scott Rogers, designer of Rayguns and Rocketships.

First and foremost, I decided to adopt a milestone level system for this module rather than the default experience point system in D&D 5e. My reason for this is the narrative pacing of my campaign; there are certain story beats that require the heroes be a certain level to experience them fairly. In order to allow the players freedom to move the plot forward without needing to grind experience points first, they will level up to pre-determined milestone levels when reaching specific locations on the tour.

Something else that will set this adventure apart from the Critical Role campaign is that the circus troupe’s performances will be more integrally tied into the game mechanics with a few homebrewed rules and systems of my own. Each performance on tour will have a result determined by pre-requisite quests and a rolling system. This means the players will gain a different income and quest opportunities in that area based on how they go in their acts.

Apart from this planned feature, I have already homebrewed five new character backgrounds to fit the narrative and character backstories in my adventure module. I determined proficiency bonuses in two skills and two tools for each background, except for the Troupe Acrobat background designed for the character Lucia which instead has two skills, one tool, and one language. This is another example of designing my game mechanics with their relationship to the adventure’s theme and narrative in mind.

Troupe Leader
— Skills; Performance, Persuasion
— Tools; Land Vehicles, Thieves’ Kit

— Beast Tamer
— Skills; Performance, Animal Handling
— Tools; Leatherworker’s Tools, Herbalism Kit

— Troupe Brawn
— Skills; Performance, Athletics
— Tools; Cook’s Utensils, Drums

— Musician
— Skills; Performance, Sleight of Hand
— Tools; Dice Set, Calligrapher’s Tools

— Acrobat
— Skills; Performance, Acrobatics
— Tools; Weaver’s Tools
— Languages; Celestial

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Initial Playtest and Feedback; my plan from here onwards

I put my newly designed character sheets to the test with a small one-off play test. It involved about 30 minutes of general character roleplaying, then 1.5 hours of a test encounter with bandits ambushing the troupe’s caravan. The footage above is a small taste of that session, which was done over discord using a dice-roll bot and microsoft word as an encounter map with character tokens to keep track of combat. My playtesters commented that they really loved the characters, both in their gameplay/mechanics and backstories. Some advice I received as a first-time Dungeon Master and module designer was to reduce the number of enemies in the encounters to avoid lengthy and confusing combat. I was also told I needed to flesh out the starting village, which I fully intend on diving into now that I’ve sorted out my characters and general plot points. I think that for my next session of playtesting I will enlist the help of a more experienced Dungeon Master and see if my module is sufficient enough to be easily picked up and used by someone other than myself, especially one with the skills and game knowledge to make the most of the material given.

To summarise, my main agenda right now is this;
— Create a continent map for the adventure that names and outlines all significant locations from the narrative.
— Start fleshing out each town and village with NPC’s and sidequests to be done, including those relevant to character backstories.
— Homebrew a rolling system for the troupe performances that helps determine degree of success and income for the party in each leg of their tour.

 

List of sources and resources used;
Stackexchange: ‘Is homebrewing D&D okay?’
Board Game Design Lab: ‘Intertwining Theme and Mechanics with Scott Rogers’
DM’s Guild: ‘Class Character Sheets Bundle’
Avrae Discord Bot
Critical Role Wiki: ‘The Might Nein’
WASD20: ‘How to Draw a Fantasy Map (Part 1: Landmasses)’

critical self-reflection of comments (part 2)

BETA 1; The Future of Online Fitness

After receiving feedback and a lack of engagement, Tahlia has changed her original DA idea from content creation on TikTok to analysing the future of online fitness, specifically with group routines and training. Tahlia has been doing online workouts with her friend and researching the impact of internet technologies on the fitness community. She plans to create a Facebook group for sharing workout tips and routines.

In my comment, I shared an academic article about online fitness culture as seen on social media, and some of the negative impacts on the body image of young women it may have. I suggested that Tahlia could take this into account when branding her Facebook group, creating a fitness page for sharing routines but also uplifting other women and being a judgement-free support group for all body types. I referred Tahlia to the subject materials in which the social responsibility of futurists is discussed.

[Tahlia’s Blog]

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BETA 2; ‘THE FUTURE OF SOCIAL MEDIA AND TRENDS’

Julia’s DA is a series of video essays about the future of social media and trends in these platforms. Her introduction and first episode have been uploaded, but she has received minimal engagement and feedback so far, so hopefully my comment can help. She hopes to incorporate more subject materials into her videos in the future.

In my comment I suggested that Julia read the subject materials about forecasting as a method of prediction, using data and the scientific method to speculate possible futures. I shared a source about Netflix and how it makes predictions about what content will interest users based on their data profiles. My idea was that she could touch upon the shift from retail-style online services to subscription based streaming in entertainment media. Unfortunately looking back on this comment, I think I misunderstood Julia’s topic; her primary focus is the future of social media rather than entertainment media. I hope my feedback still helps in some way.

[Julia’s Blog]

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BETA 3; ‘THE FUTURE OF FEMINISM’

Isabella’s DA is about the future of feminism as a social movement. She is observing this through two main case studies in a blog post format; feminism in film (James Cameron) and feminism in celebrity advocation (Beyonce, Emma Watson). She has done extensive research on the topic of feminism, and also her own primary research on various subreddits.

In my feedback I shared a short analysis of the character Rose from James Cameron’s film Titanic. It looks at the character in terms of feminism and the ‘hero’ mythos within fiction. I hoped it would be useful for her blog post about James Cameron’s films and how they relate to the future of feminism. I also linked Isabella’s topic to the subject materials, in particular Wendell bell’s perspective about futurists.

[Isabella’s Blog]

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Critical Reflection

I definitely improved my comments this time around, leaving feedback that related to subject materials AND expanding upon the sources shared by explaining how they potentially relate to each project. However, I think that for Julia’s DA I could have shared a source more useful to her topic. Overall I’m much more happy with my comments for these project BETAs.

group game pitch contribution

My group is designing and pitching a party game about crazy conspiracy theories under the working title That’s Whack! We were inspired by Cards Against Humanity and other similar party games involving cards such as What Do You Meme?, Search History, and New Phone Who Dis? We want our game to encourage players to make each other laugh and have fun, while being simple enough to quickly learn and play in large groups.

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We have separated the presentation of our design into four different categories and will tackle one each; genre (party game), theme (conspiracies), mechanics, and the game rules. We plan to do our own research, writing, and presentation slides for our section, then come together before presenting to combine our work and make sure it flows from start to finish. Our aim is to finish our own individual contributions by week 10, and then bring them together into a presentation in time for the due date in week 11. My contribution to the presentation will be researching and determining the core game mechanics.

What are mechanics? Miguel Sicart defines game mechanics as “methods invoked by agents, designed for interaction with the game state.” Those that are repeatedly used by an agent to achieve the game’s win condition are considered “core mechanics.” Basically, they are the parts of a game that allow a player to interact with and change the state of the game itself, and therefore are key to the process of game design. That’s Wack! is based on the system of mechanics in Card Against Humanity, but with some slight tweaks that set it apart as its own game. Here is an outline of my contribution to our game design presentation, identifying and discussing the game mechanics;

Drawing and Playing Cards — the means of taking actions on a turn

There are five card piles; one big pile of prompt cards containing blank spaces, and four smaller piles of answer cards separated into the categories people, places, events, and things. Players will draw answer cards and play them in response to prompt cards to fill in the blanks. The cards work well as a game mechanic because randomising the prompts and answers is made easy by shuffling the piles, they are re-usable without needing pen and paper, rounds are quick as players do not need to come up with their own answers (instead selecting from pre-made ones), and the modular design of the cards allows for future expansions.

Card Czar Role — determining unique actions for specific players

Players are sequentially assigned this special role each round. The Card Czar, or in this case Master Conspiracist, draws and reads aloud the prompt card for that round. They do not participate in drawing and selecting answer cards for that round. The Master Conspiracist can reward just one of the other players with a point for that round. Allowing this role to be rotated through all players helps to reduce biased voting that favours a specific sense of humour.

Point System — facilitates the game win condition

The first player to reach a set number of points wins the game.

Rounds and Turns — segments of the game in which predefined actions can occur

That’s Whack! Has three turn phases within a round;

— Turn 1; The new Master Conspiracist is appointed, the prompt card is played and read aloud.

— Turn 2; Players simultaneously draw and play their answer cards.

— Turn 3; The Master Conspiracist selects their favourite answer to the prompt, that player is rewarded with a point.

 

Research Bibliography;

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/50381/cards-against-humanity

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/287810/new-phone-who-dis 

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/292622/search-history

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/226610/what-do-you-meme-millennial-card-game-millennials

Moore, C. and Hall, R., 2020. BCM300 Week Six – Game Mechanics. YouTube.

Sicart, M. (2008). Defining Game Mechanics. the international journal of computer game research, 8(2).

Yates, M. (March 2020). THESE 15 PARTY GAMES FOR ADULTS ARE WAY MORE FUN THAN THEY SHOULD BE. Best.

cyberculture [digital artefact beta]

 

My DA addresses the future of technology and cyberculture through digital picture edits. I hope to continue on this trajectory for future posts, where I will explore many more aspects of cyberculture while including references to cyberpunk media in popular culture. I aim to grow my presence on both Instagram and TikTok further by using networking strategies and techniques unique to each platform. My goal is to post at least one edit per week from now onwards.

To get a better look at each of my digital edits, please check below;

>>>CLICK FOR THE VIDEO EDITS USED ON INSTA STORIES AND TIKTOK<<<

 

game pitch; a new adventure

I love playing tabletop role-playing games with my friends, so I wanted to incorporate the genre into my game experience design project. TRPG’s fall under the niche/hobby category of games and are about face-to-face, collaborative story telling aided by dice rolls and the guidance of a ‘game master’ moderator. Players act out their character roles and engage in different facets of adventuring determined by the game master’s chosen rule system. It’s a fun way to bond with friends while also experiencing escapism through fantasy, becoming fully immersed in the imagined play space.

“Basics of t-RPGs are to let a set of players share the creation of their own story, where they interpret the main characters. T-RPGs mix dynamics from both society games (for the ludic aspect) and improvisational theatre.”

Delmas, G., Champagnat, R. and Augeraud, M., 2009.

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My TRPG of choice is Wizard’s of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition. I have the most experience and knowledge with this rule system, though truthfully I’ve never run my own campaign as the game master and will usually take the role of player character instead. Regardless, I want to create my own D&D module to be used by myself and other game masters as an adventure guide. I’ll be brushing up on the official Dungeon Master’s manual and asking for help from some of my experienced game master friends. My goal will be to design a game experience that is immersive, compelling, fair for all players and, most importantly, fun.

“One of the distinguishing features of the RPG genre is its ability to immerse the
player in the world and story that the game creates. The example from a D&D adventure in the epigraph addresses the readers in the second-person, pulling them directly into the story world, situating them in a place, and immersing them. “

Cover, J.A.G., 2005.

There are countless resources online that will assist me in creating this adventure module, including many video tutorials and forum discussion posts over at r/DnD. The website Dungeon Masters Guild also has a variety of templates and game materials that can be downloaded for free. Creating an adventure for D&D involves planning and preparing the narrative, setting, combat encounters, exploration and non-playable characters of an imagined story, then organizing these elements into a document that can be easily applied to the official D&D rule system. I might also attempt to design new gameplay features for my adventure module under the framework of the D&D rule-set, a practice known by TRPG fans as ‘homebrewing’.

The most important factor to consider when designing an adventure module is that it first and foremost acts as a guide for game masters to follow when running their own D&D campaign. This means that my target audience when designing is not just the players but also the game master, as they enact the most important role in determining the players’ overall experience. So, while I may want to consider how the adventure can appeal to both new and veteran players, I should also keep in mind whether or not my module design is effective in aiding the game master’s efforts to run a campaign; having the document be easy to understand and convenient for the game master is key.

“The game master is both a referee and a story director. On the one hand, he checks
the player characters’ actions. He validates actions and their results according to
game’s rules. On the other hand, he is responsible for story’s unfolding. He has to
describe the environment and to interpret the set of non-player characters (NPC). As a consequence, he produces a frame for the story and adapts it to player’s actions.”

Delmas, G., Champagnat, R. and Augeraud, M., 2009.

The theme of my game design project will be based on the existing lore of the D&D universe, which takes inspiration from Tolkien fantasy. I’m currently dreaming up a world and narrative for the adventure module and seeking inspiration from online campaigns that are live streamed or recorded and uploaded by the game master. One of my favourite online campaign series is Critical Role, run by voice actor Matt Mercer. I’m definitely interested in creating some pre-made character sheets for new players who are unfamiliar with the D&D system, or veterans who would like to jump in straight away without needing to create their own character first. I’m interested in a narrative that involves a band of outcasts or misunderstood ruffians who come upon the dark secrets of a sleepy village (or two) by chance. They’re left with a choice of covering up the corruption, or putting an end to it. D&D’s alignment system will be handy in this situation.

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My main concern with this project was the logistics of testing the adventure module and receiving feedback while in self-isolation due to the current global pandemic. I’ve been looking into online solutions, including the virtual tabletop website Roll20, and a variety of D&D bots for Discord servers. I plan to test combat encounters and exploration sections of the adventure with friends, and get feedback about my module manual online from other TRPG fans through discussion forums like Reddit. Since I plan to keep the adventure as brief enough to fit a ‘one-off’ campaign, meaning it can be completed over one or few play sessions, I may also be able to do complete play-throughs with different groups of players. Then, from those experiences I can flesh out areas I feel required more preparation and planning that I had not previously considered.

General Project Timeline

Week 6 – 7: Apply pitch feedback to my project and develop the game narrative + explore resources and tutorials for creating a D&D adventure.

Week 8 – 9: Start prototyping and testing the adventure module.

Week 10 – 11: Apply beta feedback and findings from the first rounds of testing to the adventure module.

Week 12 – 13: Final testing of the prototype and working on the project dossier

References;
Cover, J.A.G., 2005. ‘Tabletop Role-Playing Games: Perspectives from Narrative, Game, and Rhetorical Theory’.
Delmas, G., Champagnat, R. and Augeraud, M., 2009. ‘From tabletop RPG to interactive storytelling: definition of a story manager for videogames’. Joint international conference on interactive digital storytelling (pp. 121-126).

live tweeting [part 1]

Metropolis Online

Week 1 – Metropolis (Lang, 1927)

For my first week of live-tweeting I decided to compile my tweets about Metropolis into a thread. Although this seemed like a great idea in theory, I felt that it didn’t quite work for the live-tweeting experience as each tweet explored a self-contained idea about the film. Threads seemed to be better suited to the stringing together of tweets that focus on the same general topic or argument. I used a literary approach for my analysis of this film, focusing on the ideas and concepts being portrayed on-screen as well as key inter-textual references.

Evidence of live-tweeting and engagement in discussion

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Week 2 – 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968)

This week I made an effort to draw upon the subject materials in a few of my tweets. I decided not to compile my tweets in a thread so that I could improve the layout of my ideas. I also focused more on engaging in discussion through comments/retweets. This may have been because the film was easier to follow while actively tweeting than the week before, with Metropolis being a silent film that required reading title cards. The content of my tweets focused on a combination of themes expressed in the film and facts about the film’s production.

Evidence of live-tweeting and engagement in discussion

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Week 3 – Westworld (Crichton, 1973)

Having seen the popular television series Westworld based on this film, I went into this week of live-tweeting with some prior knowledge and was able to show that in my tweets. I managed to achieve a good balance between sharing my own tweets and engaging with others this week because of that. This told me that if I were to research the films I am not familiar with more deeply than I had been before, or even pre-screen them the day before, it would probably enrich the quality and quantity of my live-tweeting significantly. My tweets contained a lot of comparison between the original film and the series, and also included terms and ideas from the subject materials.

Evidence of live-tweeting and engagement in discussion

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Bladerunner by Chris Thornley (Regular)

Week 4 – Blade Runner (Scott, 1982)

This week was another film that I was familiar with which benefited my analysis once again. My best tweets were those that referenced the subject materials and included GIFs to support the idea being expressed. I chose to include more live commentary-style tweets this week to see how much engagement they would receive. I feel like I produced a good mix of different content for each tweet. Something I needed to work on in the future was including more details about production and the context in which each film was created.

Evidence of live-tweeting and engagement in discussion

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Week 5 – Minority Report (Spielberg, 2002)

For this week of live-tweeting we were thrown a curve ball; the planned film for screening was not available for rent or on any streaming services in Australia. So, the film was changed to Minority Report. This meant that my prepared research would not be useful for this live-tweeting session. Despite this I think I did well at going with the flow and engaging in discussion. I focused on trying to incorporate references to the subject materials in most of my tweets. Again I did not explore the film’s context and production as much as I would have liked to, but this is likely because of my lack of preparation.

Evidence of live-tweeting and engagement in discussion

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Final thoughts and reflection

Going into the next few weeks of screenings, I feel as though my live-tweeting skills have improved and my content+engagement from now onward will be of higher quality and quantity. I’m more confident in being able to prepare and execute tweets that explore each film’s themes, context, and relevance to the subject topics. Something I could definitely improve on in the future would be incorporating links to articles or sources that have informed my research in some tweets. I’ve realised upon reviewing my tweets that I neglected to do this, while some other students will often link articles and academic sources. I’ve learnt which tweets capture the attention of my peers and receive meaningful engagement and will apply this knowledge to my future live-tweets. Some examples include tweets that live-commentate the action on screen, tweets that are supported visually by GIFs, and tweets that analyse how the weekly subject topics relate to the chosen film.

critical self-reflection of comments (part 1)

‘COVID-19: WHAT DOES THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE FOR SMALL BUSINESSES?’

Grace’s digital artefact topic is the future of small businesses during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically how online presence will become an essential part of engaging with customers. Grace will be examining this idea through her own social media business that began this year. Her website offers a range of social media packages from general advisory to content creation and page management. She plans to offer her services free of charge or at a reduced rate to small business struggling to transition to an online business model during the outbreak. Grace’s methods when promoting these businesses will consider the government guidelines set in place regarding COVID-19.

In my comment, I commended Grace’s thorough planning and digital artefact utility. I was interested to hear more about her methodology, and what her new website packages would entail. I suggested that Grace use primary research methods by creating a survey for small business owners, with a goal of understanding what these businesses need most during this time. I also linked a news media article for her background research.

[Grace’s Blog]

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‘LIFE AFTER COVID-19’

Steff’s digital artefact addresses a similar topic to Grace’s in observing the effects of COVID-19 on the future, however her focus is more broad in looking at the impact of this pandemic on lifestyle and society. Steff will be exploring this concept in a series of fortnightly blog posts featuring a unique topic (business, education, food, music, law etc.). The posts will contain multimedia elements like images, videos, and interviews. Steff hopes to bring awareness to the importance future-thinking in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and plans to get feedback from post engagement and by sharing her digital artefact on Reddit.

In my comment I praised Steff for her planning and research, which was the most developed and outstanding I’d seen for this round of peer commentary. My suggestion was that Steff interview a variety of local people involved in the area of discussion by reaching out on Twitter for interviewees, as her pitch stated she would be interviewing her roommate. I thought that finding people with relevant knowledge to the fortnightly topic would enhance her posts significantly. I also suggested she narrow down the scope of her ideas if she wished to reduce her own workload when it came to research. I shared a news media article that may be useful to Steff.

[Steff’s Blog]

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‘THE FUTURE OF TIKTOK’

Tahlia was considering two different ideas for her digital artefact, and eventually decided on the more developed of her two concepts. Tahlia plans to explore the future of content creation, specifically the emerging social media platform TikTok. She wants to look into the mechanics of the platform itself, which allows short, fast and frequent creation, and how this content model continuously engages TikTok users. Tahlia also plans to examine the ‘influencer house’ phenomenon on TikTok with creators like ‘The Hype House’ dominating the platform.

In my feedback I suggested that Tahlia should start planning her methodology and utility for her project, as neither were discussed in depth throughout her pitch. I feel this may have been because Tahlia was unsure about which topic she wanted to choose. I thought her topic would suit a series of explainer blog posts/videos, or a visual essay. I shared an academic research report about TikTok.

[Tahlia’s Blog]

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Critical Reflection

With this round of comments I think I did well at engaging with each person’s digital artefact and making suggestions that could enhance their projects. However, I feel that I failed to engage with the research sources I shared in each comment. I neglected to summarise what the articles and reports linked in my comments were about and how they could be beneficial to the digital artefacts. I also did not draw upon any lecture materials and should strive to use concepts and ideas from the BCM325 subject when commenting on the Beta blogposts in the future. I need to find proactive ways to relate future theory to my peers’ projects when giving feedback.