So far I’ve mainly been working on, as the title says, “weird little games.” These are ideas that I have a lot of enthusiasm for, but which seldom call for more than 10 or 20 pages of material. I love being able to say I’m making a game about kaiju who feel kinda sad (Melancholy Kaiju, which is nearly done save for the artwork and a little bit of writing), and I legitimately think the actual game is an enjoyable experience, but I’ll be the first to say it doesn’t have a lot of longevity or commercial potential. Its value is more as an artistic endeavor and for what the process of making it teaches me about game design. I’m not about to cynically push for whatever makes the most money, but I do want to make games that you guys will want to play, because I really like bringing that kind of enjoyment to people’s lives.
Game Design Stuff
Melancholy Kaiju is one of the games I’m working on that is pretty much entirely made up of what I’ve taken to calling “aesthetic mechanics,” game rules that inform the fuzzy story content without touching on game-y mechanical concerns. For me these have been a very important new aspect of RPG design, both for how they enable games to address things that traditional RPGs wouldn’t really work for (as in Raspberry Heaven) and their potential to enhance otherwise traditional games (like how the Name and Look in Apocalypse World playbooks help you quickly create distinctive characters). I don't know where exactly I’m going with this, except that it’s let me realize a lot of ideas that I couldn’t otherwise.
Another thing that’s been very much on my mind lately is the role of combat in RPGs. I don’t like to get mired in measuring up against past works, especially since my real goal is to help expand the scope of the medium (and emphatically not to discard the past), but the wargame-inspired combat paradigm of D&D is so pervasive and defining that it’s hard to avoid talking in terms of comparisons. It’s not that that approach is bad, just that it’s one of numerous possibilities. Golden Sky Stories is a game that shows that you can have a compelling experience even when fighting is off the table, while games like Risus and Primetime Adventures how that it’s not necessary to make it particularly different from other sorts of conflicts. World Wide Wrestling (Nathan D. Paoletta’s excellent pro-wrestling RPG) has simple but fun mechanics for handling fights, but the rules you engage are primarily concerned with things that are orthogonal to who wins (which the GM, playing the role of a booker, had already decided in advance). Aside from the fun of narrating a wrestling match, the real point of engaging the mechanics is to see how good of a performance your wrestler puts on and whether they’re able to win over the crowd.
Another of the mini-RPGs I’m working on is a game called Zero Breakers. Mikagura School Suite was the major thematic inspiration, and it’s about students at a high school for kids with special powers, basically set up to keep them busy fighting each other so they don’t destroy the world. The actual Zero Breakers game is going to be sort of a proof of concept for the notion that a combat system can be first and foremost an exercise in collaboratively narrating a cool fight scene.
One more ambitious game I’m working on that I think is a strong candidate for a sort of Patreon beta release is Pix. Thematically, Pix draws heavily on Undertale and to a lesser extent stuff like Homestuck, Adventure Time, and Steven Universe. It’s about a tiny world that is an odd hybrid of physical reality and video game reality, whose residents are all manner of strange creatures who only have each other. The rules are in essence a streamlined version of the rules of Golden Sky Stories, with a dose of Apocalypse World mixed in. A character is a blend of a Type (the sort of creature they are) and a Job (what they do), very similar to Danger Patrol character creation. The core mechanics have come pretty easily as a result of being based on existing games, but of course I set myself the task of fleshing out 7 Types and 7 Jobs, each with their own Weaknesses and Powers. It’s been a creatively challenging game, but also really fun. Although I totally love Undertale, for a variety of reasons (most notably the fact that I’m not making a single-player computer game) I wound up making a pacifistic game in the vein of GSS, but more grounded in my own culture. The characters are kind of losers, but have their own kind of beauty because of that. Their world is fragile, but it’s also beautiful and kind.
The other big thing (although not directly relevant to my Patreon stuff) is that I’m gearing up to Kickstart and publish Dragon World, my comedy fantasy anime Powered by the Apocalypse RPG. It’s a fun game that I’ve playtested the heck out of, and I decided it was time to finally get it fully realized. I’ve got artists and stretch goal material contributors lined up, but there’s still a fair amount of legwork left to do.