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Lands of Plenty public alpha

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Hello peeps.

Over the last few months I've been working on the public alpha of Lands of Plenty, a pseudo-Mediaeval gameworld and RPG I've been designing on and off for the last year a bit, and that document is now ready to be released into the wild.

'Why a public alpha?', or 'What is a public alpha?', you may be thinking. Well, I will of course be doing my utmost to get it playtested by gamers I know locally, or those I might meet at cons; however, it is in the expectation of said utmost being nowhere near ut enough that I have decided to open up the process to, well, anyone who fancies getting in on the ground floor of an exciting new game. Nowadays, people are so interconnected via the Internet and social media that thinking of the whole roleplaying community as potential alpha playtesters is by no means bizarre IMO, hence this announcement.

So, what's involved, how will the playtests work, how and when will feedback be incorporated into the document, is there a book (and if so do we have to buy it), and how will all this be coordinated? Very good questions all. Here are my answers:

What's involved?
1.   A series of full run-throughs (lasting about 4-6 hours), for GMs to familiarise themselves with the gameworld, and see how it all fits together.

2.   A series of shorter sessions to test specific parts of the system, forex
a.    Combat.
b.    Spotlight scenes and character development.
c.    Social combat, opposed rolls and duels.

3.   Editing of the document following feedback

4.   Rinse and repeat until there is a consensus that the rules are solid.

5.   Go to beta.

How will the playtests work?
1.   Anybody is free to run a playtest anytime anywhere, including online (although I personally don't feel the system can be adequately tested that way, but it's ok for getting used to the gameworld and the system in outline).
2.   There will be some way of recording the sessions: how many players; how long did the game take; what sort of game and what play mode was it? Etc.
3.   A feedback form will be provided, but feedback in any form will be welcome.

Is there a book (and if so do we have to buy it)?
Nope. It will be a free pdf always, but at some stage I may print a limited-edition commemorative issue, available at cost to playtesters. However, folks may print off the document for their personal use at any time (see below).  

How and when will feedback be incorporated into the document?
1.   The doc will be a continuously evolving one. Every so often, I'll pull together folks' thoughts and update it to incorporate changes that seem logical and command widespread support. This will then become the Status Quo Document (SQD), which games will be based on from thenceforward. I will endeavour to strike a balance between amending the doc to include logical and agreed changes as above and ensuring all player groups have enough time to test the current draft.
2.   Throughout the alpha stage there will be an outward facing SQD and an inward facing working document that I will continually update and amend behind the scenes until it's ready to become the new SQD.
3.   Playtesters are free to print off the SQD or work from the PDF, whichever is easier.

How will all this be coordinated?
There will be either a dedicated website or forum, and/or a social media group for GMs and playtesters to compare notes, possibly a meetup group to arrange sessions and recruit playtesters, and maybe a Discord if I ever get the hang of it. I'm happy for GMs to run  games on any platform they see fit, so long as they record the data on a shared site as above.

You'll note that the cartography is just a down and dirty Word-confected affair. Professional cartography is coming later, but for now I just want to get it out there, plus I'm reluctant to fork out for a professional cartographer until there's enough traction to justify it. However, once things get going, I'll look into costs and so forth, and start working on it on an ongoing basis.

I've mentioned throughout the doc that there are as yet no travel rules. This is because I'm testing the basic rules here, and I don't want to add another layer of complexity at this stage. In the area of the gameworld covered by this doc, no journey will be more than a three-day ride, so IMO there's no burning necessity for specific travel rules; GMs can just throw in an obstacle every so often, or come up with a rudimentary set of encounter tables for wild animals, bandits and/or weather to challenge the PCs on a journey.

However, rules for travel and exploration will probably be the next thing I will look at once the basic rules have been more or less fixed, and this is likely to coincide with an expansion of the map to the South and West.

There you have it. I will be at #ukgamesexpo this weekend if anyone wants to have a chat in convivial (albeit slightly hectic) surroundings. Otherwise, interested parties can contact me via PM here, or on FB, Twitter, MeWe or Pluspora. On FB I'm Cattinald Bigg, everywhere else I'm catty_big.

So, who's with me?

Gah! Zapping inconsistencies even at this late stage. Looking at the char sheet the other day, somebody asked me why I'd put Stealth under DEX rather than AGI. 'Had I?' I thought. 'Surely not?' But when I checked, it turned out that yes I had. Oh well, these things are sent to try us I suppose.

Following a recent thread on RPGGeek, I've made some changes to the core mechanics, to whit a) the reroll option is now applicable on rolls where the attribute value is 4 or 5, not 3-5 as before, b) the usage cap has been reduced to one per session as opposed to three per session, c) players may now spend as much Bounty on a roll as they like (previously, players could spend it only up to the value of the attribute they were rolling against), and d) the terms Basic and Bonus have changed to attribute value and reroll respectively.

I anticipate these to be the final changes prior to a general release (see below).  
2. A limited run (100-200 copies, depending on uptake) of a print version is planned for early 2020, possibly via a Kickstarter around the end of this year, followed by...  
3. An official launch at UKGE 2020.

Following a memorable (GM'd) one-player session at ConTinency in January, and in particular a couple of suggestions made by that player, I've updated the doc slightly. First, I've added advice to highlight the +4 and +5 ability mods (see example character sheet on p17, and GM advice at the bottom of p15), and secondly, I've incorporated their suggestion to lessen the book-keeping involved in Trait monitoring (Trait displays attract Bounty, the in-game meta-currency) by possibly allowing the players to keep track of it themselves (see top of p15). In addition I've added a Trait reference guide (p19) for GMs who are happy to monitor Trait displays themselves.

Finally, I've added in the advice section on p15 that if GMs do decide to do the monitoring, they should heavily signal that bc in the heat of the action it's impossible to monitor Traits meticulously, the players are encouraged to point out ones they think the GM may have missed.

Still desperately seeking playtesters, so, you know, if any o' y'all fancies taking it for a spin, hit me up.

So, I finally decided that, since I was going to be stuck at home for some considerable time, I should have a go at converting the doc from its previous layout - whereby each subtopic had its own section, and you had to read the text section by section - to a fully two-column format, whereby you read the left-hand column from top to bottom, and then the right-hand column likewise. (I know, it's confusing; check out the linked file with examples of the text before and after, you'll see what I mean). The full text is in the OP.

I've known for some time that I'd eventually have to get someone to redo it, but the other day, bored stiff at being cooped up indoors, I decided to have a go myself, fully expecting to give up after a few minutes of desperately trying to get Word to do what I wanted BUT, amazingly I succeeded! Over about three days last week I managed to reorder an entire 85pp document, including tables and bulleted sections. It now looks almost readable, and I'm really chuffed with myself.

Sub-topic headings are now one column, but are separated by the dividers from the previous version. Some of the text still looks slightly off, forex the bits where bulleted lists go over two columns, and the acres of white space that have suddenly appeared everywhere, but that will probably change when my eventual layout person - whoever they might be - gets their hands on it, but that's a way off yet, so for the foreseeable future this is the standard doc.

The only thing missing now is professional cartography, which I might commission. It may not seem worth it if I'm only going to delete the files afterwards, but it would be nice to get it to the best possible state before I finally pull the plug, kinda like dressing the deceased in their best suit before cremating them. Anyway, there you have it.


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