Games Design - Bad Romance

Posted by: Neil Gow On: Apr 5th 2011

{Andrew and Matt encouraged me to get this down on ... screen, here, because I'm facing a sort of designers constipation on this one}

OK, so the easy thing to do would be to milk the Empire franchise for every penny I can get and do the military-SF version that I have always wanted to do. I have the notes, I have the system, I just need to get it down. The problem is that I have another idea and I absolutely need to get it out of my mind as its been bugging me for literally years now.

As some of you may be aware, I am a sucker for what is commonly known as 'Dark Romance' stories. Typified by the tales of Laurell K. Hamilton, Katherine Harris and Kelly Armstrong, the TV shows such as Being Human and True Blood and of course, the Twilight 'phenomenon'. I am of the belief that this genre is one of the last really untouched niches of roleplaying games and it offers a remarkably open pathway to involving roleplayings lost demographic - young females. Like my daughter actually. Now I know that some people who are reading this will be thinking 'but Neil, those are crap books/film/TV!'. I don't care. The fact of the matter is that they are hugely successful and the genre has expanded over the years from a small subsection of the horror shelf in a bookshop to a full-blown section of its own in both the adult and the young adult sections. It is hawt business.

Thinking randomly about the game possibilities, it would have to be very accessible in terms of gameplay, characters and situations.

I realise that this material - vampires, werewolves, witches etc. - has been, for many, a heavily trodden path and something different would have to be done.

However, I also think that this would be a possibility to really establish some strong female characters within the game. Thats something I think is lacking a lot (especially in my previous endeavours for obvious reasons. A little redressing of the balance!)

And then there are matters of sex and sexuality. Thats going to be a tender one.

Format-wise I am obsessed intellectually with Lady Blackbird. Both in the presentation, the concept and the stealth background that is packed into the game. Also for accessibility I'm looking at situations and one session games rather than the traditional ongoing campaign narrative.

Moreover I want to bring in the concept of interactively developed main characters and the use of a rotating cast within the product, based around a Smallville style relationship map and the conceit behind the Women of Otherworld novels. The what? Well, in each of the novels you have a central character. Say, for example, a werewolf. She might become involved with a teenage witch as a minor character. The next book focuses on the teenage witch, who meets a psychic as a minor character. The next book focuses on the psychic etc.

So the possible thing I would like to do is a LB style central cast, but each situation 'pack' released would only use a few of them and characters from their personal relationship maps as the PCs. These would rotate through each release. So the game world grows through each release as different characters are explored.

I also want character development between releases to be a matter of global player input. So, using LB as an example, imagine if there was a follow-up situation but the question was posed to the players globally, 'OK folks, you've played LB. Who does she end up with? The Captain? The Pirate King? No-One?' and the players report and vote on it and the next situation released reflects that vote!

And yes, I have totally stolen this sort of interactivity from the storyline tournaments of the L5R CCG.

And potentially comicbook format with an aggressive release schedule of bimonthly situations.

Phew. There. Expunged.


Posted by: Matt On: Apr 5th 2011

So I'm curious at what the real roadblocks are for this on your mind?

Because other than the need for that discretion and careful handling aspect, that sounds like a fully formed idea to me...

It also sounds like the most feasible ccg style rpg I've yet heard of.

Posted by: Neil Gow On: Apr 5th 2011

Well, the process of setting the morass of thoughts raging around my head down on paper really helped to crystalise matters. REALLY helped.

Now just to do the same with the system.


Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Apr 7th 2011

Yeah, I would love to see this stuff given a serious treatment (for the tongue in cheek there's Jenni Dowsett's Silver Kiss of the Magical Twilight...).

I'd also like to see mechanics and a system that appeals, rewards and is accessible to the target market. Luckily, you and your daughter are two of that target market.

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