Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Dungeon Bitches Continues Development

So it's been about three weeks since I started Dungeon Bitches as a project, and I have been writing furiously. The rough skeleton of the game can be seen in the previous two posts here and here but I've expanded it out a lot from there. I'm anticipating the book having maybe 100 pages of a4.

So, what's in those pages?
The game starts out with a brief introduction. The overall concept for the game, a rough picture of how you play PbtA games,  set of up-front content warnings.Then after that, into the base mechanics. Stats, rolling for moves, hurt, bonds, experience and what the basic moves actually are. Then how to make a character, and the ten classes.
Compared to the blogposts, classes have been expanded on somewhat. There's an extra section in character gen, in which you define a relationship with another PC (tying the party together) and with an NPC in the world (tying the party into the setting). Fairly freeform, again designed to prompt you into considering who your PC is and how she relates to people, much like the Three Questions. Each class has been bumped from a choice of 4 moves, to 6, meaning you can spend all of your advances purely on your own class's moves, getting all of them and not needing to branch out.
One concern I got a lot with the initial notes was that the selection of classes skewed strongly towards the supernatural, with four of the six being non-mundane, resulting in a game where all the PCs were kinda weird. So, additional classes were added to compensate for that. You know have 10 classes; 5 mundane, 5 supernatural. The new classes are:

  • The Firebrand. An angry bitch with strong views, a rabble-rouser, saboteur and activist. Hard/Soft. Her mechanics mostly revolve around self-sacrifice. She can spend her own XP to benefit her party members, or take Hurt so they don't have to. Some damage-mitigation stuff in there, and an option to get XP when you do something self-sacrificing out of principle. And then, her last significant move lets her do proper large-scale rabble-rousing, which can potentially have some big effects on the game world.
  • The Lantern Girl. New to adventuring, out of her depth, paranoid about danger, still working a lot of stuff out. Soft/Queer. Well suited to a 'coming out of the closet' sort of narrative. Has a 'lamp turned on/lamp turned off' dichotomy going, getting benefits to information gathering and perhaps supporting her allies in its light, but being able to slip away into the darkness when it's turned off. Super efficient information-gathering capabilities, and some mechanics that reward you for working out who you are and who you want to be. Totally not a self-insert.
  • The Disgraced Princess. Used to be a member of the upper nobility or royalty, due to be married off for political purposes. Rampant gayness resulted in her either being kicked out of her noble house, or fleeing it, so now she's one of the Bitches. Subtle/Queer. An absolute social powerhouse. Has money, gets bonds on people, can issue direct orders, and the best PC for using the Flirt move if she has time to prep. Also gets some stuff encouraging her to shy away from real nastiness, and rewarding other PCs for sheltering her.
  • The Spider. (Look, I like spiders, OK?) A shapeshifting humanoid spider living secretly among, and preying on, mankind. Hard/Subtle. Gets a lot of very sexualised moves that let her lure and ambush people. Can reveal her horrible true form to inflict various psychological effects on victims, heal up by draining blood, heal others by feeding them her blood. Her Sex Move lets her shift her appearance to look like whoever she last fucked (and she gets temporary a bonus to a stat to reflect it!). Lastly, her bite contains a euphoric venom, which can be used to knock out victims. Or, she can bite during sex, and the euphoric effects of her venom mean her partner's sex-move triggers *twice*. She's very much a sexualised predator, keying into a lot of tropes from things like Carmilla.
The Spider in particular went through a few revisions. The initial version was called the Lilim, and tied into some IRL mythology around Lilith and her descendants. This got chucked out because it tied the game to a real-world setting a little too hard. There were also, like, some issues with the moves where she went over the line from 'sexy and predatory' to 'kinda rapey', so they got altered. And, like, the class can absolutely still be played that way if you want to, but it's much less overt.

The next big section is on safety tools. This is honestly the most I've ever written about them. This section's not prescriptive, I don't say 'you should use this tool and it will make your game safe' because that's not how it works. Different groups will find different tools work for them. Rather, the point of this section is to be up-front about the need for something and to discuss what I've found works well. Really, the three main points are:
  • communication is important
  • consent is important
  • feeling in control is important
And the specific tools you use will follow from that.
Normally, I'd make this section pretty short, spending a few paragraphs talking about why traumatising your players is bad and a quick 101 on how not to do that, but here I've gone into a more depth. Really, though, this project is a giant pile of potential triggers, so I kinda had to give it some weight.

Following this, there's some advice on how the game is intended to be played. It begins with some general tips on how to be a good player (be proactive! treat the world like it's real! embrace emergent narratives!) and some advice on things like how emergent narrative works, the relation between fiction & moves, etc. Then some more specific sub-sections dealing with different areas of the game; Queer Stuff, Sex & Romance, Violence, Trauma, Dungeon Exploration, Safe Places & Downtime, and Going Back To Town. Each gives a rough overview of how the game is expected to work. Rather than hard mechanics, there's a discussion of things like the expected dynamics, good 'probing questions' to ask in these scenes, when to apply (or not apply) a given move, where different types of scene fall into the general structure of the game. It's about setting expectations, rather than laying down concrete rules.

The last major section is GM stuff. You get some general pointers on being a GM, and then on handling things like logistics, wandering monsters, etc. Lastly a set of tools to roll up a random dungeon (with tables for treasure, room/body searching, etc), and to roll up a random town (with tables for who the main factions are, shitty injustices to witness about town, rumours, etc).


It's a very rough first draft. There's a bunch of other stuff I wanna put in (how to set up session 1, some essays on the assumed setting and what, like, a dungeon is, guidelines to running longer-term plotlines, that sorta thing). That, combined with some full-page art, proper indexing, etc... I'm expecting expand the book out to 100+ pages.

Tonally, I've been using a very casual, conversational voice to write it. Sentence structure is loose, there's swearing, there's slang. I think the precise, technical, textbook-style tone of voice commonly seen in RPGs is quite a masculine coded thing. I want to push away from that. Using a more informal tone pushes the intent of the game quite well, puts you in the right headspace. Similarly, I'm not shying away from putting social justice stuff in the text. If I think shitty patriarchal bullshit is relevant to whatever I'm discussing, I'll just call it 'shitty patriarchal bullshit', because honestly if you're not on board with that worldview already why the fuck are you playing this particular game?

I'm gonna be running the first round of playtesting soon. I'm excited for it.
One thing I've been finding is that the more rpg work I put out, the more personal the stuff I put into it. Esoteric Enterprises explored my experiences with poverty and life on the fringes of society, for example. The islands module - under the working title And The Sea Gave Up The Dead Who Were In It - is exploring a lot of different thoughts I have around religion, death, faith, rebirth, and the failings of those principles. Dungeon Bitches is the most I've pushed this for something I intend to publish, though. It's meant to be raw and messy and personal. I'm drawing on a lot of my experiences with being poor, disowned by my family, gay, trans, homeless, all that stuff. There's a lot of stuff in there where I'm reflecting on and channelling nasty shit I've dealt with; the Wounded Daughter, Lantern Girl, Corpse Doll and Runaway Nun are all kinda self-inserts. 

In some ways, it's not been an easy text to write. I'm pulling on stuff that was painful at the time, maybe continues to be painful. In other ways, it's been incredibly easy; I stick some music on, have a beer, and the words just sort of flow out. I'm not restricting myself and holding back on anything, it's kind of a brutally honest piece of self expression.

I've been working closely with an artist for this project. Sarah Carapace is super talented, really gets what I'm going for, and has had a lot of useful suggestions for game stuff and visual stuff. Plus there's a lovely rough softness to her work that really clicks with what I want from the game. Art takes time, obviously, so it's gonna be a while before the full book is ready, but when it's done, it's gonna be fucking stunning
Anyway, I'll leave you with some concept art from her, and some test layout work we've tried.








6 comments:

  1. Sarah Carapace is a rad name and that is some rad art. It's cool to see this game take shape!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cavegirl'S Game Stuff: Dungeon Bitches Continues Development >>>>> Download Now

      >>>>> Download Full

      Cavegirl'S Game Stuff: Dungeon Bitches Continues Development >>>>> Download LINK

      >>>>> Download Now

      Cavegirl'S Game Stuff: Dungeon Bitches Continues Development >>>>> Download Full

      >>>>> Download LINK 4b

      Delete
  2. MORE MUNDANE CLASSES FUCK YEAH WE ASKED AND YOU FUCKIN DELIVERED THIS IS GONNA BE INCREDIBLE. can't wait to see how this turns out... and the logo is pitch-perfect, that might be the greatest rpg logo I've seen ever. I normally try to stay off rpg hype trains but ALL ABOARD THE DUNGEON BITCHES HYPE TRAIN Y'ALL

    ReplyDelete
  3. Joke Comment: I see you are already softening the book by putting in the mundane stuff in reaction to complaints!
    Okay, okay, not really. I just think weird stuff is good and all supernatural/weird classes would be awesome.

    Real comment: I've only had bad experiences with Pbta games, but I'm really interested in this one. Even more so now since I think that RPG products with a lot of their creator put into them are the best kind. So even though I'm about as far from the target audience for this, I'm certainly hoping to grab a copy when it's finally finished and out for sale!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Different people have different tastes. In my playtests, we've had a mix of both, but the weird classes don't FEEL too weird in practice. On the other hand, some of the new classes - particularly the Lantern Girl - let me explore some experiences that I think are very appropriate to the game, so including them is fun.

      PbtA is an odd little engine. Personally, I like it, but it takes a bit to really grok it. Anyway, I hope when it comes out, you'll find it worth playing.

      Delete