'Bastards 0.2

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Agamemnon
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'Bastards 0.2

Post by Agamemnon » 10 Dec 2016, 14:41

(Posted mostly because I already threw it up on my blog and site news feed. Figured I might as well post a copy here for anyone interested, and to give a place for feedback as is customary).

If you lurk around our forums, you may have already heard: Band of Bastards is currently in the middle of a substantial overhaul. I thought it was appropriate to make some kind of a statement about what we're doing and why.

We've done this a few times before, though most were before we were ever under as much scrutiny. 'Bastards was (fittingly) the illegitimate child of the Trosfans forums, in their project to produce a new, unofficial, and revised edition of The Riddle of Steel after Driftwood went dark. This burst of creative impulse ultimately gave birth to Blade of the Iron Throne as well, which we still look at as a sibling for that reason. Like most siblings, though, we wound up going very separate directions.

The first iteration of the game was exactly what it set out to be - a TROS update, with all the bells and whistles. We had something like 60 maneuvers, 150+ weapons (most of which had more than one stat-line), and a whole mess of very exacting specifications for everything we touched. After the initial creative rush of cobbling together every optional rule from all of the TROS books and somehow making them more-or-less work together, we realized that this was a beast so ungainly that it would be a nightmare to run, let alone teach a new player.

Back to the drawing board.

The next iteration of the game would become what we promoted as Song of Steel. At the time, our focus was still on historical fiction -- a position we leaned into all the harder with Blade selling itself by contrast as a Swords and Sorcery game. It's a funny thing that siblings do. Bernard Cornwell had a prominent place on our bookshelf, along with a great deal of non-fiction that we picked up on swords and swordsmanship (including the book with a very similar title). This is about the time when we started pestering people like Nikolas Lloyd, Roland Warzecha, and Matt Easton for insights, which they all graciously provided.

This was the iteration when we really came into our own. Systems were scrapped, new bits invented, unnecessary bits stripped away. Our ranged combat and skirmish systems date back to this iteration (both of which were Higgin's contributions, amusingly enough. Thank him. He was very insistent on ranged combat being awesome).

Then came Song of Swords. What were the odds of another game being developed by another indie-dev team based on the same original game with a nearly identical name? We discussed the thing with them - their hands were tied. The name was chosen by their fans. They were polite about the thing and even complimentary. At least one of them had been a fan of our work. It's always nice to be noticed.

Restriction breeds creativity. We were already competing for attention in the same sub-niche of a sub-niche of an already niche hobby, so we were left with the options of either sharing an initialism with who was arguably our closest competitor or redefine ourselves. We chose the latter.


One day, I'll shake Jimmy Rome's hand. Rebranding seemed like a setback at the time, but in the process, we had the license to re-evaluate everything we had chosen to do up to that point. Everything got cleaned up and polished, had the rough edges smoothed out. A lot of the stuff we had been so insistent in trying to replicate in exacting detail simply got dropped or abstracted. 'Bastards began to really hone in on what it wanted to be, which was a game about ambition and conflicts of the moral, physical, and bloody variety. In a strange way, despite being the furthest mechanically from its forebear, it may have been the closest in essence to what TROS wanted to be about.

This latest revision is a continuation of the iterative saga this game has undergone. The purpose of a beta test is to get feedback and have room to make adjustments. Between some of the cracks that have shown themselves at the fringes of our own play, and some of the feedback we've gotten on the forums, we're finding places where things could be better, tighter, or (conversely) need to be loosened up and made less rigid.

Higgins and I have both grown a lot as both players and designers since we started this project back in (dear God, really?) 2011. The last couple years, in particular, have been spent in a kind of ongoing game design boot camp. One of the driving forces in the revision is that certain areas of the game reflect designs that were either inherited from TROS once upon a time, or products of our early attempts to fix the products of those inherited parts. We can do better, and we're going to.

The end goal is to make a game that I will be inspired to play again. In slaughtering some of the sacred cows we've held on to in search of better design, of cleaning the clutter that we've amassed, we hope to create the kind of game that we're going to want to play and run for years to come. I want to be so again impassioned by this project that we have the energy and drive to see it through to the full vision we had for it. We hope that in making ourselves passionate about the thing, in cleaning up and overhauling the design of the thing, we'll make you passionate about it as well.
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Marras
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Re: 'Bastards 0.2

Post by Marras » 11 Dec 2016, 17:29

Interesting, very interesting. I am really looking forward to see what you have changed.
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Re: 'Bastards 0.2

Post by Agamemnon » 11 Dec 2016, 18:22

Marras wrote:Interesting, very interesting. I am really looking forward to see what you have changed.
Right now the major things to be reworked are:
  • Skills and attributes - which we have a mess of a thread on presently.
  • Melee combat - this one we figured out how to do some nifty tricks with that both make it easier to play andmore dynamic.
  • Edges & Flaws - this is one of those inherited artifacts. I have a better idea of how I'd like to do this now that would give players more room to customize their characters to the setting and make the entire category more useful/powerful as an option.
  • Economy - The current currency system is kind of a mess, and we either have to figure out how to fix it or scrap it. We chose the latter and are rewriting the buying-stuff rules.
I also have a ton of GM notes and things to write up, but those aren't so much a change as an addition. I've been keeping GM notes for months now, as we wanted to have GM advice that actually wanted to show you how to run the game instead of assuming you were going to run it like every other game you've played.
Sword and Scoundrel: On Role-Playing and Fantasy Obscura

Arrakis teaches the attitude of the knife — chopping off what’s incomplete and saying: "Now it’s complete because it’s ended here."
Collected Sayings of Muad’Dib, the Princess Irulan
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nemedeus
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Re: 'Bastards 0.2

Post by nemedeus » 11 Dec 2016, 18:26

Agamemnon wrote:
Marras wrote:Interesting, very interesting. I am really looking forward to see what you have changed.
Right now the major things to be reworked are:
  • Skills and attributes - which we have a mess of a thread on presently.
  • Melee combat - this one we figured out how to do some nifty tricks with that both make it easier to play andmore dynamic.
  • Edges & Flaws - this is one of those inherited artifacts. I have a better idea of how I'd like to do this now that would give players more room to customize their characters to the setting and make the entire category more useful/powerful as an option.
  • Economy - The current currency system is kind of a mess, and we either have to figure out how to fix it or scrap it. We chose the latter and are rewriting the buying-stuff rules.
I also have a ton of GM notes and things to write up, but those aren't so much a change as an addition. I've been keeping GM notes for months now, as we wanted to have GM advice that actually wanted to show you how to run the game instead of assuming you were going to run it like every other game you've played.
Not sure if i'm feeling YAY or Scared for my butt.

Edges/Flaws definitely need more love right now, but everything else, it's kind of a dark premonition you're giving me here.
Nonetheless, i can hardly wait.
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Re: 'Bastards 0.2

Post by taelor » 11 Dec 2016, 20:23

As written, edges and flaws seem very dump stat-y to me. I hope the updated version makes them more compelling.
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Re: 'Bastards 0.2

Post by dysjunct » 11 Dec 2016, 22:53

Attributes etc.: will post in the thread.

Melee combat: excited to see.

Edges/Flaws: yeah, existing system seems lame and tacked on. It seems very difficult to assign severity without an explicit setting. It seems like the functionality could be duplicated with an extension of the expertise system or SA system.

Economy: given that you're already ripping off (er, heavily inspired by) TROS for the combat, I recommend riffing off of BW's resource mechanic. A system that purports to be about visceral/personal stories shouldn't involve tracking coins.
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Re: 'Bastards 0.2

Post by Agamemnon » 11 Dec 2016, 23:14

taelor wrote:As written, edges and flaws seem very dump stat-y to me. I hope the updated version makes them more compelling.
dysjunct wrote:Edges/Flaws: yeah, existing system seems lame and tacked on. It seems very difficult to assign severity without an explicit setting. It seems like the functionality could be duplicated with an extension of the expertise system or SA system.
My thoughts exactly. It takes up way too many pages for what it provides, and I'm working on a better version of the thing from the ground up to allow players to build their own edges, basically.
dysjunct wrote:Economy: given that you're already ripping off (er, heavily inspired by) TROS for the combat, I recommend riffing off of BW's resource mechanic. A system that purports to be about visceral/personal stories shouldn't involve tracking coins.
That's about the direction I've been leaning. That said, once the game is out, we'll probably wind up releasing an Apocrypha book that has a bunch of alternate systems in it -- including a hard currency system based on the original one we had in mind. For the core book, though, it didn't seem like the way to go.
Sword and Scoundrel: On Role-Playing and Fantasy Obscura

Arrakis teaches the attitude of the knife — chopping off what’s incomplete and saying: "Now it’s complete because it’s ended here."
Collected Sayings of Muad’Dib, the Princess Irulan
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Re: 'Bastards 0.2

Post by higgins » 12 Dec 2016, 18:34

dysjunct wrote:A system that purports to be about visceral/personal stories shouldn't involve tracking coins.
Coins are super cool and I love the system I came up with. We have put a TON of work into making the prices realistic to the point of purchasing meals or actual villages and towns. But when we took another look at our feel document... a precise economy just wasn't listed as a priority. In fact, it wasn't listed at all. So, abstract it is. At least for the core.
nemedeus wrote:Not sure if i'm feeling YAY or Scared for my butt.
We're definitely not going full abstract with combat. Divided pools and maneuvers will still be the core of it, but it'll mutate quite a bit. Super excited about that.
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Re: 'Bastards 0.2

Post by EinBein » 13 Dec 2016, 12:28

Agamemnon wrote:Right now the major things to be reworked are:
  • Skills and attributes - which we have a mess of a thread on presently.
  • Melee combat - this one we figured out how to do some nifty tricks with that both make it easier to play andmore dynamic.
  • Edges & Flaws - this is one of those inherited artifacts. I have a better idea of how I'd like to do this now that would give players more room to customize their characters to the setting and make the entire category more useful/powerful as an option.
  • Economy - The current currency system is kind of a mess, and we either have to figure out how to fix it or scrap it. We chose the latter and are rewriting the buying-stuff rules.
I also have a ton of GM notes and things to write up, but those aren't so much a change as an addition. I've been keeping GM notes for months now, as we wanted to have GM advice that actually wanted to show you how to run the game instead of assuming you were going to run it like every other game you've played.
Actually, I like the current Edges & Flaws with few restrictions. They added a lot of character to the characters, but with the major drawback that many Flaws made characters unplayable in group context. For my one-shot betatest, I chose a lot of these more drastic Flaws, but they led to several character deaths over the course of the day and a serious split into the few survivors fleeing from one priest who won the crowd with an MoS 5 speach...

I'm looking forward to all of the above but the "skills and attributes" part. I voiced my concerns in the relevant thread, so no need to copy-paste them here.
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