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brainstorming from a book

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Fos
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Joined: 12/31/1969

I recently read the light fantasy book, "A Night In Lonesome October." I'm not generally a fan of fantasy, especially light fantasy, but the concept intrigued me and it has my mind spinning in game ideas once again. This should be natural, considering the plot.

...Lonesome October details "The Game," a magical event played out everytime a full moon lands on Halloween (fairly infrequent). The players are the standard movie monsters or characters of legends. Jack the Ripper, for instance, is the protagonist. Each player is trying to either keep the world as it is, or open a gate to the Elder Gods (Cthlulu, etc.) and change the world... significantly. Essentially, the Players are divided into the Openers and Closers. This naturally lends itself to board games with a bit of roleplaying. Also, the book has 31 chapters for each day of the month (great for a hard, time-controlled ending).

However, the idea that immediately sprang to life is what the game board would look like, which would be a map of the small 19th century English town the Players reside in. Sort of like Clue. But the map would be surrounded by a circle track of 31 spaces, each space with a picture of one phase of the moon starting with October 1st and ending with a full moon on Oct. 31st . As each turn ended, the marker on that track would advance one space, and game actions would change (but mostly increase in power) depending on the phase. The Game doesn't really get started properly until the new moon, up until then it's merely prep work for the event and all Players work together, regardless of "party politics," but as the days near Halloween and the moon grows larger, the Game naturally gets more frantic and the Players gain more power. Also interesting is the naturally occurring want to not reveal which side you're on. If, for instance, you revealed yourself as an Opener too early in the Game, all Closers would immediately knock you out.

The book practically lays out the player handbook for what sounds like an incredibly fun Clue with inter-player politics and the ability to kill off each other, wrapped in an intriguing world of legendary characters. The only problem is, it's already a book and I have this weird little hang up about adapting other works so directly. However, the mechanics are still worthwhile. Hopefully this will spur on some designs, or even get someone to read the book.

PS. There are many more game mechanics I didn't mention (read the book to discover them all), but here's a short additional list. Players have to figure out who's who, which side their on, and where they live, prep work includes gathering the necessary magical ingredients to open the Gate, all Players also have animal familiars, and Players have to determine where the Gate actually is based where all the Players live (an interesting design challenge to implement elegantly and dynamically every game). At one point in the book, the characters reminice about a long past game where no one could find where the Gate was supposed to be, so they all sat around at dinner and joked about it.

Also, another little tidbit to get you interested. In the book an owl says, "the only thing cats are good for are stringing tennis racket." A little morbid, but the board game version should be as well.

FastLearner
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Joined: 12/31/1969
brainstorming from a book

That book would indeed make a cool game, great idea!

I was fortunate enough to have Roger Zelazny (the author) share some early drafts of it with me, including reading part of it aloud. Some of the sharing was with others and some was over a dinner with him. He's a hell of an author, and he had a blast writing that book. It's a real shame that he died a few years back... I would have loved to read yet another Amber series. (I'm working on an Amber strategy boardgame, btw.)

Sorry, none of that was input on your game... you just happened to trigger a pleasant memory that I thought I'd share.

-- Matthew

Aerjen
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Joined: 08/28/2008
brainstorming from a book

Talk about coincidence. I've been working on a Zelazny boardgame for quite a while as well. I haven't had the pleasure of meeting him though. I'm quite envious of you on that account. My game is also a strategy game, I'm not exactly sure whether I want to take only one point in time or make use of all the aspects of the book. Currently I've got the black road involved, lot's of family members, the patterns (including the original and the chaos-form), the emerald and a couple of territories which are linked to the individual family-members (e.g. Julian is of the forests).

P.s. Sorry Fos, I got distracted by the post of FastLearner. The game and book both sound like a very fun idea though. So if you decide to pursue this idea, the best of luck and I'm curious as to what the outcome will be.

fanaka66
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Joined: 11/18/2008
brainstorming from a book

It really sounds like you are on to something. I read Lonesome October a while back, I think you may have inspired me to give it another read. I like alot of your ideas and think it sounds very promising.

Continuing on the coincidence front, Zomulgustar and I were recently doing some brainstorming about an Amber Board Game. We were mostily discussing the mechanics to represent traveling through shadow. I thought we had some good ideas, but I don't think either of us have the time right now to do anything with them. I'll ask him, but if he doesn't mind, I could share what we came up with.

Aerjen
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Joined: 08/28/2008
brainstorming from a book

If you wouldn't mind, that would be great. I would really like to see someone else's perspective on the game's/book's mechanics. After that it's time to battle FastLearner for the game. I guess I wouldn't mind working on the same game at the same time though. Heck, I'm just doing it for fun.

Scurra
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Joined: 09/11/2008
brainstorming from a book

Oh I don't think you and FastLearner are the only people with an Amber game somewhere in their worklists....
(Although mine got somewhat less ambitious after I worked out that my "walking the pattern" subgame was actually fine in its own right!)

Fos
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Joined: 12/31/1969
brainstorming from a book

In retrospect, it seems my post didn't have to be nearly as long as it was. I should have just said, "You know what would make a really cool game? A Night in Lonesome October!"

Anyway, I think I'm getting over the "lifting other works for games" hangup I have. Sure, I probably will never be able to publish it, but it sounds like too fun of a game to not share with my friends. The publishing is never a big deal anyway... it's just a thing about originality. But screw that.

EDIT: And I'm sure I'm not sharing anything new here, but a roommate assures me that the Amber Diceless RPG system is great in its own right. Perhaps some mechanics and concepts can be adapted for the (seemingly) myriad board games based on the series in the works here.

phpbbadmin
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Joined: 04/23/2013
brainstorming from a book

Fos wrote:
In retrospect, it seems my post didn't have to be nearly as long as it was. I should have just said, "You know what would make a really cool game? A Night in Lonesome October!"

Anyway, I think I'm getting over the "lifting other works for games" hangup I have. Sure, I probably will never be able to publish it, but it sounds like too fun of a game to not share with my friends. The publishing is never a big deal anyway... it's just a thing about originality. But screw that.

I think it's a great idea. I've never even heard of the book (gave up the fantasy genre due to market saturation\homogenization), but your description has got me curious. I'm going to try and pick up a copy from the local library. Sounds fascinating... I especially like your idea regarding the time issue affecting the game state. I love games that make use of this. As a matter of fact, I try to implement some variation of that mechanic in most of my games whenever possible.

-Darke

Anonymous
brainstorming from a book

I'll agree that it sounds like a cool idea! having never read the book I can't comment too much on the specifics, but I can offer some more general comments.

Is there a need for a ton of build up (15 or so game rounds of basically prep work)? It assumes that the rounds move very quickly, otherwise it may well be a very long game. Have you thought about starting the game at the new moon? Just an idea.

I only mention it because I am working on a game that is divided into chapters that increment with every game round. I have 42 game rounds currently, but I had to include a game condition to jump some rounds to advance the game along. When I brought it out at the recent Albany playtest session, many who were present were relieved that the game didn't take a full 42 rounds of playing.

Something to think about. Good luck on your game, I look forward to hearing more specifics about it!

Fos
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Joined: 12/31/1969
brainstorming from a book

SiskNY, that's certainly a question that needs answering, but I feel it should wait until after I get more than a few sketches of mechanics on paper. It's a question of pacing, and I'm not sure yet what exactly I'll be pacing.

There are a few choices, though.

  1. Move a day forward after everyone gets a turn.
  2. Move a day forward after each person takes a turn.
  3. Everyone act simultaneously and move the day forward when they all finish, but that will require more study of the rest of the mechanics, of course.
  4. Mechanically connect the time cycle into the gameplay in some way I've not yet thought of, where time moves forward dynamically based on specific character actions, and not as a "turn-based" affair.
All of these choices have pros and cons, but unfortunately I can't know what those pros and cons are in relation to the game until I explore a few other areas. Though there is a general aspect of choice 4 that I can already see as potentially damaging to the game, that, while it may work to speed up the game, there needs to be some way to build to the frantic pace at the end. Playing against an impartial clock helps that, but perhaps there's a way to meld the two ideas, where the Players can influence how fast time moves, but that ability gradually changes as the game progresses.

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FastLearner
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Joined: 12/31/1969
brainstorming from a book

(Just a note that my Amber game is focused on alliances, influence, and walking in shadow.)

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