Games Design - [Hell for Leather] Monthly PlayKits

Posted by: Sebastian Hickey On: Aug 24th 2010 edited

Starting next month, I'm aiming to release a monthly PDF publication called a Hell for Leather PlayKit.

I intended to write all these myself, but since a couple of days ago I got some feedback from interested contributors, including Davide Losito of Coyote Press. This surprised me and has spurned me to come up with a delivery format.

Hell for Leather is a pretty customisable game, as long as you include murder in your stories. I'd like to use the monthly PlayKits to hack that condition. That is, to show how things can be done differently. But I don't want to jump the gun (and exclude gamers that bought the game for gore). So, for the first two months I'll be delivering two PlayKits that use the standard rules (but mess with the settings in an interesting way):

* Ancient Rome (Epic battles) by Daniel Klein
* French Revolution (Low gore, sympathetic characters) by Eoin Corrigan

In the third month I plan to release a larger PlayKit called Footprints, which shows how to change the Violence rules. In the standard game, the contestants are hunted by an adversary who tracks their progress more easily when they do violence. In that way, you can think of violence as a kind of footprint. This PlayKit will expose how you can change the game to you liking by replacing Violence with something else. In the example, I will show how the Violence can be changed to Special Effects (each star increasing the budget). This is one of the PlayKits I intend to write in its entirety.

I'll follow that up with three example hacks:

* Zombies (which replaces Violence with Noise) by Davide Losito
* Mage (which replaces Violence with Sorcery) by me?
* Wacky Racers (which replaces Violence with Gadgets) by me?

I've got plans for stuff after that, but that's all gonna bore you to tears, so let's just stick to these PlayKits first. Questions:

* Is there a kind of pursuit genre or trope you'd like to see?
* Is there a kind of alteration to Violence that excites you? Some people have said "time bending," for example, or "super powers." Any other ideas for a device that offers short term gain (and long term fallout) in a story about pursuit?
* Would you be interested in writing something? Each PDF would be credited to you and I'd do all the rules stuff. I'd just need your wazzo ideas, settings, characters and interrelationships.

Jason Hickey and Tazio Betin have agreed to help produce some free, full colour artwork for the covers and interior.

Lastly, when you saw this thread, before you opened it, what did you expect me to write about? Is there something that you'd like to see in a PlayKit that I haven't mentioned? Maybe you'd want to see examples of play, for example, or fan contributions? No work has been done yet, so all ideas are welcome.

Posted by: Joe Prince On: Aug 25th 2010

I'm not keen on any of this mini supplements fiasco. I still like the Running Man TV show the best. But this thread is exactly what I thought you'd be writing about. All the rage these days, I blame Jason Morningstar!

Posted by: Sebastian Hickey On: Aug 26th 2010

I know what you mean. But, I think the mini-supplement thing is clever. I've been wanting to write a "hack HfL to bits" book since halfway through the project. This is a good way to write it and use it to promote, and, yes another and, to give my two fans something new to try out while they're waiting for...something.

Posted by: Malcolm Craig On: Aug 26th 2010

Joe: I'm not sure that "I'm not keen on this" is a particularly useful observation. I'd like to know (and perhaps in another thread, so as not to divert from Sebastian's stated purpose with this one) why you don't like it, the issues you might have with the model, and so forth.

Now, on with the show.

I'd be interested to know if these add-ons will be free or paid for. I know that Brennan Taylor releases little PDFs for Mortal Coil and sells them for around two dollars on DTRPG. Would these items be free or would they be paid for?

As I've mentioned privately, I'm very keen to write some stuff for this (and have even made a start on same!) Would you like me to talk about that stuff here, or would you prefer to keep it as a surprise?


Posted by: Joe Prince On: Aug 26th 2010

I'm not starting another thread on purely my opinions so here they are.

I like simplicity. One game = one book. Done.
Build a game to do one thing well.
If you want something else build a new game.

See: Dogs in the Vineyard, My Life With Master, PTA, etc.

I don't like supplements, I don't buy supplements. Many great RPGs in my past have been ruined with supplements.

Micro 'publishing' feels to me like promo/advertising rather than indie games design.

Posted by: Sebastian Hickey On: Aug 27th 2010

Malcolm: I'd like to hear all about your work on this. Don't worry about surprises. Post what you like, when you like. As for cost, the micro publications will be totally free. Then, if I can, I will release the compilation in print.

Joe: I agree with your sentiment that one game should do one thing well. Nevertheless, certain games (Fiasco among them), try to deliver one kind of experience, but that experience can be dressed up to taste. It's like downloading a new skin for winamp. Even if it looks prettier, the software still does the same thing underneath.

Hell for Leather was intended as a Running Man RPG/Boardgame. During development, after around two months, that changed. I couldn't help it*. The game became more about pursuit and players-vs-system than a specific kind of Running Man experience. After Christmas 2009, Hell for Leather mutated into a kind of generic pursuit-story machine. It was a great leap for the game. Players who liked the central mechanic could plug it into their favourite genre. Straight away, I had lots of feedback with ideas for different frames (scenarios). I knew I had made the right choice for the game, but I also knew that I should fund that customisation with some official support. These monthly supplements are my way of offering that support. They shouldn't dictate the limits of what is possible, but instead open players to new ways of using a resource that they have paid for. Furthermore, and this is important, the supplements should be endorsing what the game already outlines: how to make stories about pursuit. The supplements shouldn't break the game, but instead provide an official resource so that new players can better understand how to manage the game's creative guidelines. If anything, games like Dogs in the Vineyard and PTA need more of these kinds of supplements. How many times have you heard about people who don't know how to translate the guidelines? I had a huge problem with PTA myself. If there had been more complete examples, with more characters illustrated, more scenes explored, and so on, I would have had an easier ride, especially if these had been written by people who knew the game well. Instead, I had to resort to hours of audio AP and AP reports (which were a bit hit-and-miss). I don't see why fans of the game should have to do all the explaining.

*When I say that I couldn't help it, I mean that because the vision for the game was pretty loose and because it was my first game, I let the rules changes guide the game in new directions (instead of trying to change the rules to bring about a specific experience). I let it off the reins.

Posted by: Joe Prince On: Aug 27th 2010

Fair enough! I disagree about Dogs though.
Keep us posted on your progress. I'm off to write a hack about game designers pursed by their ennui.

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