Dustin isn’t a naive game designer, having produced Synthicide and generally navigated modern publishing. He asked me how to promote a game which did not fit neatly into “trad or indie,” “OSR or story game,” or any other dichotomy which people presented to him. Which is a perfect opportunity for me to stomp upon those dichotomies with my hobnailed boots, both for him and as a general PSA.
By odd coincidence, his current design, working title Heroic Dark, and Kinfolk, Justin Nichols’ “lab” example for our Design Curriculum discussion, are very similar. Each pits our heroes as champions defending a realm from a vast threat, racking up successes and failures which have local consequences and also eventually total to determine the fate of the realm. Both designers were also concerned with establishing genuine effects and consequences while stuck in the midst of a dangerous situation, rather than relying on “just describe it” techniques in a causal role.
The similarities are strong enough that I sometimes confused myself during the edits as to which one contained the point I was currently working on, the more so since the conversations were two days apart and the two persons’ names differ by a single letter. So I urge both of you to examine the other’s video for material that may be helpful as well as to consider the differences in their inadvertent role of comparative design decisions.
Here, or rather, following my boot-stomping discussion at the start, we talked about customizing play in ways that are not merely skinning the same mechanics, and also about important player decisions which do not factor into the “defend vs. the Dark” umbrella conflict, but rather operate as orthogonal ethics concerns or characterizations. Sometimes “heroic” isn’t defined only as “against the Dark.” I want to concentrate on that some more, not to devalue the larger arc or problem, but to bring out the strengths of table-top role-playing in comparison to the highly codified and episodic digital-game model.