Creating an Archipelago Game

About a month ago I managed to get into Jason Morningstar‘s Archipelago game “Love in the Time of Khavarner“. I really liked the setting and the style the game worked and began immediately to think how I could hack it. Jason himself said that it is not as simple as it seems. And after working on a game I have to admit he was right.

Without going into details about what is needed for an Archipelago game I must admit that I used the two existing games Love in the Time of Seið and Love in the Time of Khavarner as the starting point. I did not have high ambitions about a truly original masterpiece but an idea about a game I really wanted to take part in.

The biggest falling for me (in game design) is that usually do not have an clear idea about what I am doing when I start. I just start somewhere and either end up with something resembling a finished product or just abandoning the project. This time I had a clear vision about what I wanted – a game set in the time of ancient Rome with a  touch of Cthulhu Mythos.

I started writing the game furiously and in about week I was mostly done. I began with the locations since I knew the group I would be playing with could get by without that much character details. I came up with an idea about an old Senator inviting a group of highly influential people to his villa. After that almost all of the location practically wrote themselves.

And after that I realised I had mimicked the story idea from tremulus‘s introduction threat Brimrose Path. Oh well, fine by me. It was a great game and it is not like the “invitation to a party” was an idea only in tremulus.

The biggest problem came while writing the characters. I quickly realised that even though our gaming group would certainly get the most off about these characters they simply are not linked enough to make the game run smoothly in lets say con-environment. While freelancing for Tuoni Studios some years ago I got some experience in linking the characters tightly but it seems I had forgotten how to do it effortlessly.

This made me a bit nervous since the relationships between characters are actually the only thing that matter in games (like this). You could come up with interesting locations and events on the fly but the background work for characters is what makes the game tick. I tried to take a different approach to the story but somehow it lost the original idea quite easily.

In the end I ran out of time to fix the characters. I had managed to go through a personal epiphany about not trying to restrict the game into a particular setting and grasped the idea that the game was bigger than my plans even while I was writing it. These were huge personal milestones for me and I think they were the most important lesson I actually gained from this project.

Even with its faults we headed to my cabin, played through the story and told an amazing story. It was nothing like I had anticipated – from the start it was pure havoc festival and mayhem and the action didn’t happen at the villa at all. But we all had good time and I managed to spread the Game Masterless Playing Disease further.

Now it is time to let the game sink in. I will (hopefully) edit it during July and publish it as a free download at least here. In the meantime if you are interested to play send me an email to lauri (dot) maijala (at) icloud (dot) com and I’ll send it to you (let’s call it an open Beta).

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