Saturday, July 26, 2014

Getting Closer

 John has been working tirelessly on the app, and I think he's got all the major features in there that we're going to get. This means that I'm hoping to get to test things out when I have some time this weekend or next week, and hopefully get that small group trial with a few other humans.

But this means once we get things tested a bit more, I get to start revising the rules so that they match the app, and finish up my a bit of setting stuff.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, though we're still a little ways off.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Feedback Request: Notes and Playtest

We're trying to finish up the last few things with this app in the next week or two here. Bascially, it does a lot, there's a few things it can't do, and maybe some things it won't easily do. So to some extent, the rules are going to be subservient to the app. A couple things might be honor-system or me tallying stuff by hand, but the app will do most of it. I might also just remove a character option or two to avoid a potential issue with one of the things that simply won't work with the rules, dunno yet. Blood Sorcery isn't going to work like I had hoped, for example, so I might need to change how the secondary paths and/or rituals work or just ditch character options who would have it (Assamite Sorcerers, Capadocians, etc.).

Anyway, All that said, I'm going to pressure John to make all the little, easy, small cosmetic changes possible. To that end, I'm hoping to run a quick app playtest. A simple scenario with 4-5 players, either as a one week thing (one turn per day) or one evening/afternoon where everyone does a turn an hour or so. If anyone is interested, let me know.

Also, I'm interested in what you used to track your actions and such. I know I kept notes in one document: I wrote up my turns and once we got the app I did a cut-paste job. That let me plan things ahead of time, and then I pasted all my responses (messages and action results) into the same document. But what did you use (if anything)?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Inspirational Viewing

If you're in the mood for getting in the mood for Alexandria, here's a few things you might put on your watch schedule:
  1. Agora (2009). This is a film about Hypatia and Alexandria set a little after our time frame. Its probably the best option, at least for the visuals and some setting ideas, and is available on Netflix. 
  2. Alexandria (2010). This is an ok documentary about Alexandria, which takes quite a bit of footage from Agora. Its at least quick and you might put it on while you're doing something else. Also on Netflix.
  3. Rome (2005-2007). The HBO show. Its pretty good, shows some nice paganism, but is about 300 years earlier than the timeframe of the game. Also it was cancelled, so they crammed what could have been 2+ seasons into the second one. But it was still good.
I should note, none of this is required watching by any means, but if you're exhausted on a Tuesday night and looking for something to watch, I'd consider one of the above three. Possibly while doing a some light reading or having a push-up competition with yourself. Others recent films/shows showcasing the Ancient world:
  • Spartacus (2010-2013). Blood and Sand. War of the Damned. Vengeance. Gods of the Arena. A bit early, but good from the little I've seen of it.
  • The Eagle (2011). The lost 9th legion in Britton.
  • Centurion (2010). Another 9th legion film.
  • The Last Legion (2007). After our time period and I ain't seen it yet. Can't vouch for it. Might involve some King Arthur nonsense.
  • 300 (2006). Abs for days. A bit more ancient, but still gives you some feel for antiquity.
  • Empire (2005). A 44 BCE story. A six-episode miniseries. Haven't finished it. The beginning isn't bad, but maybe a bit slow.
  • Alexander (2004). Yeah. That film. Its Greek and earlier than our period, but the damned city is named after this man. I think there's a director's cut out which is probably better than the theatrical release. Longer if nothing else.
  • The Passion of the Christ (2004). Yeah. I know. Plus its a reader. But the visuals and the subject matter are fitting. 
  • Spartacus (2004). Haven't seen it... 
  • Troy (2004). Trojan war with with Brad Pitt. 
  • Gladiator (2000). Been a long time since I seen this one.
I think most of these are on the Netflix or Amazon Prime. Netflix might still have a one month free trial. I haven't included anything older than 2000, though I would have taken a film from the mid-to-late 90s if I spotted something decent. What I'm not including are all those old sword-and-sandal flicks or 80s things that might be more of a chore than a light romp to get us in the mood. But if anyone delves into those and spots something worthwhile (for the visuals, the story, a few key scenes, whatever), let me know.  I hear tell that I, Claudius might be good. There's supposed to be a Katherine of Alexandria film coming out this year, but I haven't been able to figure out when or if we have any chance of viewing it anytime soon. There's a couple that I haven't seen on the list above (or haven't seen all of), but I tried to make good use of reviews and the interwebs before putting absolute trash on there. If any of it is trash, feel free to mention it in the comments section.

A few that take a fantastic take on the ancient world: Clash of the Titans (2010), Wrath of the Titans (2012), Immortals (2011), Prince of Persia (2012). Can't say I'd recommend these for any historical accuracy or legitimate inspiration though (and also I can't remember which of them I've seen and which I haven't).

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Interfacing: Attacks, Stealth, and Traces

Testing the interface still. The basic influence rules are almost done it seems, but we found an interesting issue with Attack today. Can you Attack an opponent twice in the same turn?

At first I thought it would be crazy, since high level influences are already quite powerful. Then there's the timing issue: if Marcellus does two attacks (4 and 3, with the augments) against Cleopatra's street influence (level 3) should the 4 hit first, reducing Cleopatra's influence so the 3 can hit next?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Interface Update 2

Just another FYI,

We're trying to get the first set of bugs out so that we can test the new website with more than just a couple people. First we have to catch all the major things, like misplaced buttons, and checking to see if it mostly works out. I like what I see so far, but we have to do some more tests (and specific scenarios) to make sure the basics of the rules are being calculated in the way I think they are.

I'm hopeful that in two weeks we might be able to do a test-run with a few real characters so we can see how it might work in play and get feedback on how to improve things.

Monday, June 30, 2014


So. We're doing the first test of the website (The JohnByNightEngine as I call it), and a few issues came up around tracing.

Multiple traces: how should we resolve multiple observations of the same individual? Let's say Nefersedjem watches for both gauging and growth in the Streets, and Marcellus happens to do both. Nefersedjem gets two "notices" that he observed people, right? But now Nefersedjem traces one of them on the next turn. Should he learn the that both are the same person? I'm inclined to say no, and if Nefersedjem traced both of them he's learn both are Marcellus.

Now here's another item: Nefersedjem is watching for gauging again in the Streets when Tanit-Ishtar is gauging the streets, but Tanit-Ishtar is doing it with a level 0 action (i.e. just augments alone from, say, Investigation). Now, it seems clear that Nefersedjem should have a chance to gain information, and I've written before about giving level 0 and 1 actions a die or two of free concealment and the like. But let's say Nefersedjem is successful at noticing and then tracing this level 0 influence: what next?

It doesn't really make sense for Nefersedjem to have a trace on Tanit-Ishtar because Tanit-Ishtar doesn't have any influence to trace. So Nefersedjem just learns that it was a level 0 action and that's it? Or Nefersedjem learns it was a level 0 action done by Tanit-Ishtar? It might be really frustrating for people who attempt to trace level 0 actions and simply keep coming up empty handed with no information, but at least learning it was someone acting alone might help.

It makes sense that you can't actually get a permanent trace on an adversary with a level 0 influence because there's nothing to trace and they'd essentially also automatically be able to refresh (by the rules, refreshing a level 0 influence would take 0 points). Maybe instead of levels of Conceal, level 0 influences should have a die of something else, so that there's about a 50% chance that Nefersedjem just learns it is a level 0 action versus learning it was a level 0 action done by Tanit-Ishtar? This is a much more complex and unpredictable thing...

Another solution is to bring the human brain back into things. The system could flag every successful trace of a level 0 action and the ST might embellish the mechanical result by giving some vague information about the action or the actor without actually saying who it was. So Nefersedjet might learn that it was a woman asking around and gauging the streets, or perhaps that it was a Copt or a Roman or a Jew. Gender and Ethnicity might easily be added to the system for these cases, my understanding is it would be quite simple to have the engine report: "You traced a level 0 action, but determine it was a Greek male responsible." Of course, a blanket application of that might lead to the character being easily identifiable if, for example, there are only two female characters or only one Persian character and the ST flag might be a less "stupid" approach.

Decisions decisions...

Character Creation, Relations, and Factions

As we get to testing out the online system, I'm thinking about character creation more and more. A quick conversation with Z and another with B reminded me of a few things, so I figure I'll spell out some of my thoughts here.

The real question is how do we let people make the characters they want to and at the same time create a few cohesive groups? My old way would be to assign people. This is how convention games (table top and LARP) did it. Let's call this assignment. I also noticed this mechanic's usefulness in the Lurker at the Threshold expansion for Arkham Horror. I could assign people to create a character of the various clans and factions. Some might get assigned (or have the option for) a leadership role, but this would easily ensure we have a good array of factions. I could even still let people make some choices, such as ethnicity, road, or even clan. As long as there are 4 members of the Promethians, 4 Members of the Pharoi, and 4 members of the Cult of Typhon-Set.