I recently had a great playtest. Not great in that it went amazingly well, but great due to the fact that it cleared my mind, and I realized that what I thought was one game, was in fact two quite different games. So, Soulhunters and the Age of Rust setting has now fragmented, and become Soulhunters as one game, and The Age of Rust as another.
Soulhunters is the first real, actual campaign system I made, and I playtested it once seven years ago, and then posted it online. Now, someone picked it up and played a whole campaign, and apparently was so smitten with it that they made a website for it. I’m still kind of in shock!
So I picked it up again, and started writing the Age of Rust setting, which is sort of Byzantine medieval-ish dark fantasy, and I was a bit dissatisfied with how the original game resolved conflict, so I stole a host of mechanics from Houses of the Blooded, where players have a lot of say in lore and such. I had an alright first playtest (which was essentially run from a bunch of notes), but the second playtest revealed not just cracks, but a fundamental struggle between mechanics and setting.
Soulhunters is, as you probably can tell from the name, very much inspired by the Souls series, particularly Dark Souls. The problem which arose was that the players felt that, in the formalized co-creation mechanics stolen from HotB, that they decided way too much about the setting, the plot, and the immediate events. What they wanted was a world to explore, a world which was hostile to their very existence. They wanted another game. They essentially wanted the game I originally wrote.
And so I’ve had a fragmentation of game concepts. On the one hand, a new, more neatly laid out version of Soulhunters is still in the works, and I’ve decided to have less setting material and more dungeons and monsters, OSR style, and the mechanics from the old game, seeing what happens once it comes in contact with my playtesters. On the other hand, Age of Rust is still a setting I want to create, but it struck me that I could combine it with another old dream of mine – making a system which took the We Owe list and campaign structure from In a Wicked Age, with a new system which could effectively eliminate the need for a GM.
So, Age of Rust is what I’m working on right now. The story it tells is that of an Empire which inevitably collapses, honing in on the episodes and characters involved, with tangled, non-linear chronology. It will be a system where conflict between the Main Characters and their players is what will forge the narrative, and once a campaign is over you will have the history of a gloriously complicated fall of an empire. I am incredibly excited.