Alright, I know that’s a weird blog title to use as we begin some serious winter here in New England, but it’s a metaphor! For several things, as it turns out.
First, this is the first post on this blog since tumbleweeds started rolling in, over three years ago! My plan is to continue to contribute regular weekly posts on Dream Factory tips, tricks, guidance, and news for the duration. We’ll see how that goes, but that is my current intent.
Second, the sun is also rising on the next version of DF. Back in May 2013 I noted that there were still annoying errors and typos in the 2nd edition that I wanted to address, and therefore a second edition revised – or DF 2.5 as we are now calling it – is in order for that reason alone. But there’s more.
The plans is to also have the text fully copy-edited professionally, which means not just fixing errors but making sure the text meets a high standard of clarity and accuracy, which should much improve it. On top of that we are planning to add a new feature to our book that has been in high demand: ART! That’s right, the DF 2.5 will have glorious full color illustrations throughout!!
When is all this happening? Stay tuned for the continuing saga of Dream Factory’s latest chapter – so to speak.
“Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.”
I was entirely prepared to leave well enough alone with Dream Factory Second Edition. And then I saw a typo. Then I saw a grammar error. And then another typo.
I want this to be the final edition of the game. I think the DF2 mechanics work so well that it’s hard for me to imagine any changes to them. And yet, how can I call DF2 finished and complete when it still has so many typographical errors in it, despite our previous meticulousness?
And so Second Edition Revised, also known as 2.1, is born.
There will be no mechanical changes. The text as a whole will be exactly the same, apart from the typo corrections. I just want Dream Factory’s likely final form to be a little more polished.
If anyone sees any typos they would like to call to my attention, this is the time. Also, anyone who can provide proof of purchase for DF2 will of course get a free digital copy of DF2.1 – use the Contact page to pursue that, and be sure to include your email address.
And so begins the ?final? chapter of Dream Factory, Second Edition – Revised.
News alert! Dream Factory debut at CarnageCon!
Mark your Calendars, because November 3rd is the day that the new Second Edition of Dream Factory is debuting in Fairlee, VT at Carnagecon! After a year of revision and polish, play-testing and editing, the day has come – and this version is the best yet, possibly the ultimate version of this game. The author will be there running DF as well as handing out copies for a debut sale of ten bucks each, so be there!
Dream Factory is everything you and your friends need to tell a story but nothing to get in your way. An easy and rules-light system that nevertheless preserves drama and creativity. No complex tables or formulas, just pen, paper, and normal six-sided dice.
Some of the unique features include:
- Safeties: that keep the story from crossing pre-arranged boundaries.
- Lynchpins: that incentivize specific story mood and feeling.
- Quandaries: the main challenge facing each player’s hero.
Well, my choices are paying off. The first pass rewrite is complete, and the second pass editing is almost complete. As far as the writing and editing of Dream Factory, Second Edition, I would say I am at least ninety percent there.
Of course, even after that’s done, there’s all the art and publishing to handle, that that is a lot less… tiring to do.
With a little luck and a lot of Hard Work(tm), DF2 seems to be on its way. And for the record, it is my current intent at that time to resume regular blog posts here.
Some people game the system. I game myself. (grin)
No, he did not. I have been absent for a couple of weeks for one reason – and one reason alone.
As you know, I have been struggling to get myself to buckle done and do the actual rewrite of Dream Factory for the Second Edition. And time is growing ever shorter, with it’s debut at CarnageCon merely two months away.
All my other strategies to get myself to focus were failing, so I am employing one more: I am temporarily cutting out of my life all distractions from the goal – apart from a certain amount of sanity saving fun time of course, and what is required to both earn an income and keep a happy household.
This means no dorking around in Python or Google SketchUp. No new projects, like trying to scan in a translation of the Art of War. No hours on the phone killing time with friends, unless work gets done first. And no more blog post updates for now, apart from this one.
The results so far are encouraging. I have finally gotten this rewrite underway. I have rewritten 30 pages, with another ninety or so to go. I will also of course have many other things to do as part of this process, such as re-paginating the book, redoing the cover art, getting a new ISBN number, etc.
In the meanwhile, I am going to have to put this blog on hiatus. I like to think that over the last few months, I have proven I can blog consistently – and when this is over I look forward to returning to that rhythm. But for now, don’t expect to see much as I keep my energies focused on getting DF2 done.
Thanks for your understanding and support.
We have come far, grasshopper, in studying the Trait-fu. We know to pick Traits essential to the core truth of the character – because that’s how we’re going to shine. We’ve learned to be careful that the scope of the chosen Traits isn’t so narrow as to be seldom usable, but also isn’t so wide as to be abusable, usable almost always. Now we focus in on the gravy – picking Traits that enhance the flavor and savoriness of each selected Trait, bringing the overall character to a tasty fruition.
Why am I suddenly hungry?
Pushing on, this aspect of Trait selection is all about texture. And successful texturing will help determine if your character pops three-dimensionally, firing on all cylinders – or if instead the character has as much vivacity as a dead mackerel, lying inert on the deck.
Your character’s traits are the main way that the audience sees them try to surmount the obstacles in their path. Not only do the Traits represent what we see the character doing the most often, the Traits are what we see the character doing when things are at the most dramatic, as the audience waits with baited breath to see what happens next. Put another way, whenever the character is in the spotlight, odds are that the character’s Traits are front and center.
This is why it is such a terrible mistake to choose bland and generic Traits. Let’s illustrate the points by coming up with two sets of Traits covering the same ground for a superhero named Dichotomy. First, the bland and generic “gets it done with minimal flair” version:
- Perceptive (because having at least one perception Trait is usually a good idea)
- Dichotomy Powers (because we want to leverage our super powers for extra dice.)
- Clever (we want this character to be able to figure out puzzles and stuff.)
- Handsome (so that we can use our charm and hotness to succeed where useful.)
Perceptive, Dichotomy Powers, Clever, Handsome. Those Traits certainly function well enough. They do represent the core of what we want to see the character do, and they aren’t too narrow or too wide. But they’re so meh. So forgettable. Invoking these Traits just might put us to sleep!
Now let’s try the same basic character, but choosing more punchy and flavorful Traits:
- Doesn’t Miss Much
- Soulbound to the Principle of Contradiction
- Sharper Than He Looks
- Built Like a Greek Statue
Bam! Each of the above pretty much accomplishes the same coverage as the first bland set, but the difference should be obvious. Which is going to make you feel it more, invoking “Handsome” or “Built Like a Greek Statue”, to charm the coed? Which is going to push shaping the narrative more, “Clever” or “Sharper Than He Looks”, when trying to solve the puzzle in front of those who don’t see him that way? Which gives us a more meaty sense of the character, “Perceptive” or “Doesn’t Miss Much”, when checking to see if the character spots a clue in the undergrowth?
It is tempting to choose the bland Trait and have done with it – these generic concept labels come so easily to mind – Strong, Rich, Shy, Athletic – and let’s face it, everyone wants to get the character creation part over so that they can starting gaming.
But take a few more moments. Your whole game experience will center on your character’s four Traits. Make sure to choose the right ones, full of flavor, and you will not be sorry. Choose the easy and bland ones instead, and you may well wonder why the game falls so flat for you. So take the time to pick “Nervous Around Others” or “Socially Awkward” instead of just “Shy”. It will help bring your character to life.
That’s it. The keys to picking good character Traits are three:
- Choose your character’s core truths – the main things we the audience love about the character, or what fascinates us.
- Make sure your selections aren’t so narrow that they are rarely able to be used, nor so wide in scope that they can be invoked practically anytime.
- Finally, choose carefully, avoiding bland “concept-words” selecting instead Traits that are filled to the brim with attitude, life, and flavor.
Your gaming experience will thank you for it.
We talked last week about selecting the right Traits for your shiny new PC – traits that embody the aspects of the character that we the audience want to see the PC embrace time and time again. However, there is another critical issue in traits selection that GMs must pay close attention to – the Goldilocks Principle.
It’s about Trait utility. Here are two very different examples to demonstrate what can happen if the GM approves Traits that run afoul of this concern.
John is a player who loves playing powerful, effective characters, so right out of the gate he tells the GM that he wants one of his Traits to be just that: “Powerful”. John argues that his character is a rich and influential businessman who exudes power, and that this Trait encapsulates that.
Sam has a very different character – a street level loner who lives by his wits, and gets out of scrapes not by money or power, but by sheer willpower. Sam wants to take the Trait “Determined” to represent how his character through grit and resolve surmounts his obstacles.
But the purpose of a Trait isn’t just to give the players dice any time they want – it’s to give them dice in circumstances where their Traits make sense . This means that there will be times when you can invoke a Trait, and others where invoking a Trait isn’t possible. A Trait of “Golden Gloves Boxer” isn’t (one assumes) going to be generally invokable when trying to notice a clue at the crime scene. However, once the villain is uncovered, that Trait would be great for taking them down.
The problem with “Powerful” (and in a more subtle way, “Dedicated”) is very simple: When don’t they apply? Because a Trait that can almost always be invoked regardless of the nature of the Outcome Check isn’t so much a Trait as a request to always have extra dice available – and that is not what Traits are for.
The solution is simple. As a Dream Factory GM helping players make new Traits, ask them one question: “When can you not invoke this Trait? When does it not apply?” If they cannot answer that question satisfactorily, the Trait should not be approved.
This of course does not mean that the core thought that John or Sam had above can’t be encapsulated in a more well-defined Trait – assuming that said core thought wasn’t just the desire for more dice more often. Perhaps the GM can suggest some less abusable alternates for John, such as “Wealthy Venture Capitalist” or “Alpha Male Personality”, depending on which John was going for – or maybe John would want one of each. Perhaps for Sam the GM may recommend “Never Gives Up” – or even simpler, allows the player to take “Dedicated”, but makes it clear that it’s invocation for an Outcome Check will only be approved only when a test of mental or spiritual resolve is called for.
A Dream Factory GM should also be aware of the opposite problem, which happens more rarely, but does happen. Sometimes a player grabs onto a Trait idea that seems like a cool idea at the time, but winds up being so narrow in scope that it very rarely gets used.
For example, a player trying to make a character in game centered on mummies and Egypt might get the idea to have a Trait like “Speaks and Reads Ancient Egyptian”. However, the GM should ask themself if that Trait have enough opportunity for use – not just in one episode, but in each episode of each season of this game? With a Trait that narrow, probably not – so the GM should help the player widen it out, perhaps suggesting alternate Traits that would include the use of the original idea, but fill it out so that it can have more use. Perhaps “Egyptologist” or “Archaeologist” could include the desired effect in a less limited way.
So, we have covered two mandates: make Traits enhance the character concept and don’t make them too wide or too narrow in scope – but there’s one more key to picking (or approving) Traits that really make characters soar and pop – and that will be covered in the third and final installment of this series.
If you have been following this blog, you are aware of the various life problems that have been assailing me over the last several weeks, the latest being the utter crash of my entire hard drive.
Well, I am pleased to report in this Getting It Done post, I have almost completely recovered from that crash. I have purchased and installed Mozy.com’s backup service. I have reinstalled the majority of my core software programs. I have transferred my saved data back into the new installation of my machine, and I have replaced said data back in its correct boxes on my hard drive.
I think I am back in business – and none too soon, as now August is well underway.
And while I have been blocked until now on doing any actual writing or editing on DF2, that hasn’t stopped me from thinking and planning, and one of the thoughts that occurred to me is the need to write a new and expanded Preface to explain why I am writing a second edition to this game in the first place, and perhaps to (in broad strokes) hit the highlights of the major changes that made it necessary.
Other thoughts I’m having about structural changes to the layout and presentation of the book include breaking apart the subject of Karma into its own chapter it is an important topic, and the rules for using it have deepened and expanded – as well as a short chapter at the back for people to jump to if all they want to do is find out in black and white what has mechanically changed from the last edition.
Of course, I will be doing more than that – I will be rewriting any and all sections of the book that upon reflection I feel could be improved and/or made more clear. I will also have the benefit of a further year of play of the system under my belt, so that I can, for example, stress how important it is to use Totems in play, although character-sheet tracking of Traits remains a viable option for long distance gaming, such as by phone or internet.
For the coming week, I am setting an ambitious goal for myself of redrafting the Preface and the Introduction before next Monday. I am a little frightened to be biting off such a large chunk in such a limited time, but I have to force myself to take it on, because I really want to have this wrapped up by CarnageCon in November. If I fail, I fail – but it won’t be because I did not dare!
So, with a little luck, hard work, and annoying but helpful ribbing from one of my friends who keeps lighting a fire under my ass, come the Get It Done post next Monday, I will have some actual and real progress to report.
Given no further flood, fire, or famine, of course.
What are the odds?
In Dream Factory, it all comes down to the Outcome Check, or as we call them, the OC – win it, and you get decide how things turn out. Lose it, and you give the GM a chance to get creative. Which would you prefer? (grin)
The standard way to win an OC – apart from being lucky, of course – is by leveraging (that is to say, invoking or risking) your character’s Traits to get extra dice, so obviously choosing the right Traits when building your character is critical.
However, all too often we are tempted to hurry through the process of Trait selection to get right to playing the game – and this is not the kind of game where you really have to spend oodles of time in character creation – but that is not to say that you shouldn’t make careful and well thought out choices. Your character’s Traits are where that should begin.
Each character has four Traits, and those Traits can be anything you think makes sense (that you can get your GM to approve, of course.) For example, if you are creating a superhero Blasterman you might take the following:
- Committed to Justice and Fairness
- Doesn’t Miss Much (details, not hand-eye coordination, grin)
- Born Leader
- Always Keeps his Wits About Him
(Note: Most people would have one of the four Traits be the Superpower – something like “Energy Manipulation Powers” – and that’s fine, but you can also create a superhero type character with no power Traits at all. He still has powers, and uses them – but in order to get more dice to win Outcome Checks he will have invoke one of the above four Traits. For example, the player wants to have Blasterman swoop in and rescue the hostage – and in this case the GM permits him to invoke “Committed to Justice and Fairness” as well as “Always Keeps his Wits About Him” – so that nets the player two extra dice. If the player wins the OC he can narrate his preferred outcome of swooping in, blasting the bad guys back, grabbing the hostage and flying away – all without needing a specific Trait for his powers to do it.)
The key in selecting Traits is to pick ones that represent what we as the audience want to see the character do time and time again. A gumshoe’s deductions. A cat burglar’s stealth. A hero’s rectitude. A rogue’s bad attitude. The Traits you pick are not only the way you will win Outcome Checks, but since they are the main way you can win OCs you will be regularly bringing those Traits into play in the story itself, so it is vital that what you choose for your character’s Traits are the aspects of the character that we all want to revel in.
Part Two of this series will focus on zeroing in on the right breadth of Traits, and avoiding one’s that are too narrow or too broad.