Design Diary: “New” starts, but does not finish. [Part 1]

Had a funny little moment yesterday. Might be useful to elaborate a bit as a part of a larger discussion of game design specifically and getting things done in general.

I am writing the next draft of Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple based on edits from Ryan Macklin. As a part of this process, I built up a lot of new Actual Play reports by playing several concurrent games on Skype. Since then, I’ve also kept in contact with those players asking for any advice that might make it into sidebars or addenda of the published game.

It was in that discussion that Mark Sherry, he of the genius mathematical brain that has helped me through many hair-brained game ideas, came up with a new idea for Do‘s procedure.

Some background. In the present rules, an overview of which you can see here, the color of stones you keep does not have an affect in the short term. Only the number of stones you keep matters. The color has an impact at the end of the game and at the end of a series of games, when your accumulated choices flavor how that ending plays out.

Some more background. The email list was discussing some tips on how to choose a good pilgrim name. This advice generally revolved around avoiding a situation where your name is too limited in its possible interpretations. When you describe Pilgrim Rolling Fist as solving problems with his fists, then he’s probably not going to help people with his charming smile. However, if he helps people by defending against injustice, well, that opens many other narrative opportunities.

So, Mark’s idea. Make color of stones matter in the short-term and allow both words in your pilgrim’s name to be used as metaphors for getting into trouble and helping people. Then, when you choose light or dark stones, you are deciding whether it is the Banner that is helping people and the Avatar getting you in trouble or vice versa. An interesting side effect of this is that at the end of the game, you can make it so that the word that got your pilgrim into trouble the most is what ends up changing. Your pilgrim learned from her mistakes and grows up from the experience.

This is a provocative idea and tempted me greatly. Let’s see how it turned out in tomorrow’s post.