Announcements - [Cogs, Cakes and Swordsticks] Free steampunk rpg

Posted by: Lynne H On: Feb 11th 2010

Thanks to conversations arising at Dragonmeet in November last, I went away and wrote a little steampunk game. The free version is available from here:

Over the next few months, I will be writing the full for-sale version, which will include much more detail on the setting and some tweaks to the basic rules. However, any feedback would be gratefully received.

I'll also be demo-ing the game at Conpulsion in March, so if you're going to be there, please drop by and see us (there will be free paper copies available to everyone who takes part).

Thank you!

Posted by: Malcolm Craig On: Feb 11th 2010

Hi Lynne,

Great to see that you've been inspired to write your own game and thanks for posting it here for feedback. Before I give some general thoughts, I'd say it's always good to come armed with some specific questions you want answered in relation to your design. That helps to focus people's minds and increases the chance of quality feedback.

My first thought is that the name is somewhat awkward and doesn't exactly trip off the tongue. I realise you are going for something evocative of the steampunk millieu, which is great. But sometimes, it's better to simplify. This kind of ties into another thing: Cakes as the descriptor for mental/influential ability. For me, it seems odd and in some way unsatisfactory: "Well, Sir Richard De Vere Boothroyd, hardy adventurer and coloniser of the darkest corners of the globe will best this upstart in a test of intellect! I'll use Cakes then."

Additionally, I'd suggest you want to say, very early on, before you even get to character creation, what it is the characters do. What is their purpose in the game? It's also good to say exactly what the game is about: what happens in the game, is it a game of exploration, of combat, of creating mechanical wonders? What the characters DO and what the game is ABOUT are very closely related and should be addressed early on.

Back to the stats, you need to decide what you are calling these. Are cogs, cakes, and swordsticks stats, skills, or skill areas? I found this bit a little confusing. Pick one term for one thing and stick with it. A list of sample professions and skills would also be helpful at this point.

I should go and make coffee now, but's that some observations on the first few pages. Hopefully I'll have a chance to comment on the mechanical elements later on.

Hope at least some of this is useful.


Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Feb 12th 2010 edited

Hey Lynne, I like this.

Playing Fighting Fantasy on my iPhone brought back to me the nice simplicity of a die roll with simple modifiers. In FF it's your Skill, while in C2S2 it's +0 (for things no one can really do untrained), +1 (for everyday ability), +2 (for heroic ability) or +3 (for your one particularly heroic ability).

Like all games of this ilk it relies on the GM's timely and skilled setting of opposition. That's the tricky thing to convey in these games I think.

In Warlock of Firetop Mountain it's the balance of setting the Monster's skill so that it is a challenge but not too easy or too hard, and it's not just the GM upping or lowering the numbers to guide the PCs along the story the GM wants (if you see what I mean).

I'd be tempted to have the GM roll in opposition to the PCs with their own modifiers. 0 if they care not, up to +2 if they feel the weight of opposition is against it. I wouldn't give negative modifiers to the GM's roll. In cases where you would do that I'd just let the PC succeed, right?

On the other hand, I can see the appeal that many players of games have for the GM picking a number that they fairly judge to be a challenge and leave the rolling up to the players. So I have no problem with it staying like that.

As for players picking an overly "useful" descriptor to their C2SS? Well, that's part of the game/genre appeal, right?

On first sight I like the genre emulation and the simplicity. Somethings don't need overcomplication.

Posted by: Lynne H On: Feb 12th 2010

Thank you for the comments, gentlemen ;)

Gregor, for the dice rolls we were aiming at if it was an abstract "thing" or task you were working on, then the difficulty would represent how hard that task was; you are right, though - setting that difficulty can be tricky and I was going to give much more guidance on that in the full version of the game (in line with topics we've discussed before). The GM rolling was to simulate when someone else was actively working against you.

If the players are smart enough to pick an incredibly useful descriptor, then all power to them, providing that it doesn't exclude the other players. The GM shouldn't just roll over and let them get away with anything, mind you. If a player can creatively justify the use of their skill then they should be rewarded for that :) Again, much more support and guidance will be forthcoming in the full version.

Malcolm: I shall certainly go back and recheck the wording for the skills; as you know, things like that have a tendency to creep past when you're doing your own editing! Your phraseology was very evocative there: I had a wonderful mental image of your big game hunter/hardened explorer whipping out a cupcake to browbeat a rival into submission...

Its these areas (the difficulties and skills) that I intend to destruction test at Conpulsion. We've known our testers for years and as you know familiarity breads a gaming shorthand that is absent when you test with strangers. Hopefully that will iron out any creases.

Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Feb 17th 2010

Hi Lynne

Talking a bit with Joe P about this last night and I think a solid thing to put in would be about the choice of Cakes, Cogs and Sword-Sticks as it applies to a test.

To avoid players always "crowbarring" in their best ability on any test what do you think about the GM picking the "arena" for a given situation? It's a fight, obviously a fight, so the GM says this is a test of Sword-Sticks. You can't apply Cakes or Cogs to this scene as the fiction is dictating that it's Sword-Sticks. Is that how you envisage it?

Otherwise I can see players always defaulting to their Cakes, say, if that's the +3 even when it's a real stretch to see how it would apply in a fictional situation that so obviously precludes it.

And I think the GM has the right to be persuaded from the chosen arena, but they don't have to change their mind unless the argument is convincing.

Posted by: Lynne H On: Feb 17th 2010

That's a really good idea, Gregor, thanks. I shall definitely include that in the Conpulsion tests and it does get round the shoe-horning aspect that some really determined power-gamers might go for.

Posted by: Malcolm Craig On: Feb 18th 2010

Hi Lynne,

Just a quick question regarding Conpulsion: are you running C2S2 during defined sessions, as a pickup game, part of the Games on Demand thing that is being planned? I'd be very keen to check it out.


Posted by: Lynne H On: Feb 23rd 2010

Hi Malcolm,

Sorry not to get back to you sooner; gallivanting outside tinterweb range ;)

I'm running an official game in the Sunday morning slot (for my sins) but would be hoping to run "unofficial" games wherever there are comfy seats and warmth at other times.


Posted by: Malcolm Craig On: Feb 24th 2010

Thanks Lynne, that's good to know. Hopefully we'll have time for a chat about the game at Conpulsion.


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