All the Colours…

I’m working with a co-designer on a series of card and board games. It happened fairly quickly:

Karl: “Did you want to work with me on this design.”

Me: “Hell yes.”

Us: <Initiate torrential stream of concepts/>.

Karl (of Ark Angel Games) and I quickly found three core concepts to explore, all originally centered around the use of transparent cards that Karl had concocted. How things have changed in the months since.

Iteration, playtest, iteration, playtest, iteration, playtest. Two of the three are on version 3 or 4, while one is on version 11.

Some of these have come together quickly, feel close to being ‘right’, one is a work in progress, still missing a core something. All of them have changed, as is only good and right.

It’s like finding a path through a jumbled and dark room, ironically, one that you yourself have created. Feeling for what’s in front, trying to find the light switch. Once the light switch has been located of course, it’s not the end, oh no! The room needs to be surveyed, assessed, ordered, tidied, and made presentable.

At different points throughout the iterations I feel like I’ve found the light switch, but the playtest to follow reveals I have, in fact, found nothing of the sort. Things work differently in the mind to how they play out on the table, and that, while obvious, highlights *again* the vital role that playtesting has in the design process.

I have a brilliant idea! It will work! It will be glorious! It will add depth, and strategy, and… <initiate playtest/>… it just doesn’t work at all. How did I not see that!

Time and again we have come back to one or other of the games and asked ourselves – what do we want this game to achieve? If this game were on a shelf next to other games of a similar weight and a similar depth, what would those games be? What is the target audience? What other games do the people who will play this game play? Knowing the destination is vital to keeping it on track. But, by the same token, being open to a change in destination is also important.

Working with a co-designer has been a great experience. The ability to bounce ideas, come at things from other angles, and play to different strengths has been fantastic. If we have a tendency to spin one idea into three, that’s ok, I’m confident that one or more of these is going to turn out great!

Breaking Eggs

You can’t make an Omelette without breaking eggs, as the saying goes. The same is true for game design. Owlbear Omelette has been through a number of revisions, most recently an update to the random dungeon system that will be in the extended edition.

Run Goblin! Run!

The dungeon creation rules started as a card driven system: split a deck of cards into three, divided by colours and numbers. Flip this card, then that card, corridors, rooms, and encounters defined by suit and then number… Explaining it to a friend at a later stage I realised something that should probably have been quite obvious earlier: all the same could be achieved through dice rolls. In fact, rolling dice and checking tables is simpler than splitting up a deck of cards into three specific decks, and then having to check tables.

The Lost Paladin… Which way did the rogue say to go?

It’s funny how, in the moment, we can get lost in needless complexity. That the solution to a problem we see can swiftly spiral into complication. But… would the dice system exist without me having first created the overly complicated card system? No, it would not.

There is much to be said for building the thing; complexities, complications, warts and all. Once the things exists, in a form that approximates, roughly, painfully, and no doubt awkwardly, what you want to achieve, cut it back, pare it down. Ask of the thing: what can be done more simply? Is there another way to achieve the same thing?

I changed from cards to dice not just because the system is simpler, but because it doesn’t ask the GM or the players to pre-prepare. Thinking about the physical actions required of either preparing or executing an action in the game is important. Such things can add a fun aspect to the game experience when they are deliberate and purposeful, but can detract from the fun just as easily. A system that involves some sort of procedure or preparation can be a barrier to entry, a step or series of steps that add needless ‘busy work’ to a process that doesn’t necessarily require it.

I have a tendancy as a designer to add all the things in, one idea leads to two others, which in turn add some system or sub-system, and so the teetering pile grows. This is a part of my process, and just as important as growing that messy pile, is the act of going back and shaving it down, of cutting away and reorganising. Of removing the things that don’t add to the experience, but simply add processes. This cutting back is the step that is key… As I wrote at the beginning: when making an omelette, you need to break eggs.

Owlbear Omelette will be the next game released by Caradoc Games. The basic edition will be available as a free download in all the usual places (Patreon, DriveThruRPG, and Itch.io), while the Extended Edition, which includes extras such as fun secret character goals, armour rules, and random dungeon creation, will be available exclusively to Patreon supporters.

Updated!

I have updated the two micro-RPGs released so far. In both the changes are minor, the most noticeable being the addition of the new Caradoc Games logo!

You can find both updated files as free downloads on my Patreon Page here. The files have also been updated on DriveThru and Itch.

Freedom or Toaster is a micro-RPG where you play human-like robots. The trouble is, no-one is thrilled with the idea of human-like robots, they just aren’t selling. You need to try and escape the shopping mall while being chased by the Robot Police, who are intent on turning you into toasters.

Brigands of Sherwood is a micro-RPG where you play a rogue of the green wood! Life used to be easy before Robin Hood, but now he’s here everyone expects a thief to hand out their hard gotten gains! You are trying to perform one last big robbery, and hope to get away without giving it all to the peasants of Nottingham!


The next game that will be released is called The Hoppy Pops, you play as a character from one of those surreal and weird kids shows, like the TeleTubbies, Yo Gabba Gabba, or In the Night Garden. In Episode 9 the producers made you do a ‘Happy Dance’ and it opened a gateway to Hell. Now you’re trapped in the Gatehouse of Hell, and need to get home!

The Hoppy Pops includes rules, character sheets, and the expanded edition even contains a short Hoppy Pop story, in which Jiggy Pop must summon all their Yoga skills to face off against a Demon with a tasting sample of cheese!

Upcoming Titles…

I have the next couple of Micro-RPGs for Caradoc Games designed, written, and laid out. I have tried to include some art I have created, so those of you who download them, my apologies in advance! How soon they make it release will depend on my playtesting schedule, but they’ll be on Patreon first, and then DriveThruRPG and Itch.io.


The next game I’ll be releasing is called The Hoppy Pops, and is a Micro-RPG about the characters from a children’s TV show (like Yo Gabba Gabba, In the Night Garden, or the Tele Tubbies). In Episode 8 of The Hoppy Pops, their producer makes them do a ‘Happy Dance’ routine that opens a portal and pulls them into the Gatehouse of Hell! The Hoppy Pops must use all their Yoga and Crafting abilities to escape!

The base game will include all the rules and character sheets required to play, as well as some extra rules about other dimensions they might be transported to, whether an Alien Ship, or a Wizard’s Summoning Circle. The expanded edition will include a short Hoppy Pop story piece.


After The Hoppy Pops will come a game called Owlbear Omelette. In Owlbear Omelette a group of ne’er-do-well Goblins are trying to nab one of the Goblin King’s Owlbear Eggs for an omelette of their own. Is it about the little fellow sticking it to the entrenched bureaucracy? Or was it just the mad-cap product of a night spent drinking moonshine… Who can say, but in the caves of the Goblin King’s Owlbear nests any scurrilous thieves will need to be on the lookout for Goblin guards, the occasional lost Paladin, and of course, the Owlbears!

Getting an Owlbear Egg and surviving the dungeon is the name of the day! As all goblins know, when things are looking grim, a slug of Moonshine can provide the boost required!


Beyond The Hoppy Pops and Owlbear Omelette I have plans for a bunch of other Micro-RPGs with a range of silly themes. If any of these pique your interest, if you download them and they provide you with a fun evening of play, please consider signing up to my Patreon. Patrons are only charged when I release a game, and money raised will go towards program subscriptions, art, layout, and, of course, supporting me and my caffeine habit. Patreon supporters also get a little extra every release, whether additional rules, adventure seeds, alternative themes, or small pieces of fiction.

Behind the Micro-RPGs I am continuing to work on my larger RPG ‘Ashmerl’, and have been quietly pleased about how things are progressing. The character and setting creation rules have really been coming up with interesting character backgrounds and contexts, as well as plenty of story hooks. It’s exciting to see it all starting to come together. I hope to have Ashmerl written up as a playtest ready document in the next few months, with refinement ongoing and looking toward something that is ready to be laid out by the end of the year.

On top of the work on Caradoc Games products, I am continuing to freelance, and am working on some exciting titles that will be coming from Modiphius, Red Scar and Cubicle 7. No doubt I’ll blog about them as they approach publication!

A New Face…

For those of you who have been following my progress over the last little while, you’ll have noticed that things around here have undergone a number of changes. The website has had a few name alterations and has settled now at caradocgames.com, and other details have changed here and there, including the creation of a Downloads page (where you can find links to the games I have released), and a Freelance page (which lists the various games I have written for).

One of biggest things that has happened recently, is that I commissioned a logo for my company. The whole process was a mix of fascinating and exciting, and began (aside from the inquiry emails and picking the designer), with me being asked to fill out a questionnaire about my company. All the ephemera that had been floating around in my mind and jotted here and there needed to be solidified into concepts and written down for someone else to read, and that was a very enjoyable process.

It led me to writing a mission statement or guiding principle for Caradoc Games, a set of loose ideas and goals that had to be hammered together into a couple of sentences.

Caradoc Games makes small press role-playing games with an emphasis on story. Sometimes silly, sometimes serious, sometimes fantasy, sometimes science fiction, and sometimes something completely different.

Caradoc Games aims to create a mix of small projects designed to be fun and engaging, and larger projects designed to bring a narrative experience to the fore.

I’ve added this to the About page here, and summarises the goals and ambitions of the company, in terms of the style of game I intend to release.

The graphic designer that created my logo, which I might add I am absolutely thrilled with, is Khairul Hamden, and you can find his website and portfolio here. His work is amazing, and I am extremely thrilled and proud of the logo he created for Caradoc Games. My great genre loves are science fiction and fantasy, and these both have been neatly etched into the logo. It really has been a thrilled process, and I would recommend Khairul to anyone looking to get a logo created.

The whole process has been brilliant. I have spent the last evening going back and updating the old files to include the new logo, and it will be front and center on everything released from this point forward!