So, as I mentioned yesterday, I've restarted development on the tabletop RPG project that I've called A Wilder World. The point of AWW is to support a little more freeform and flying by the seat of one's pants version of a fantasy adventure game than something like Dungeons & Dragons, one that more closely emulates the kinds of stories you get in an adventure show like Xena or Mortal Kombat: Conquest, a cartoon like Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Pirates of Darkwater, or The Dragon Prince, or indeed any of the cartoons, books, or comic books that have borne the D&D branding over the year than D&D itself does.
The genesis of the project that became AWW was in things I found intriguing in 4th Edition of D&D but that I thought were muddled in the execution. I started imagining a game that had a similar focus on larger-than-life heroes, action story stunts, fantastical feats, and character customization, but less encumbered by its focus on creating statistical dead heat combats and relying on heavily codified moves. I took special inspiration from its notion of hybrid characters that let you staple parts of two unrelated character classes together, though it was tacked on as an afterthought in 4E and not well balanced or integrated with the rest of the game. I wondered about a game that was built around it from the beginning.
My preference for what I call a "toybox" approach is something I've already documented in this newsletter, but if you have, say, 12 character classes and then you also allow players to make new ones by slamming two of them together, then you've actually got 78 different choices. And that's assuming there's only one way to combine each pair.
That's the point I started from, and the idea of creating your character by putting together different combinations of fantasy archetypes has been the one feature that has remained constant in each design iteration. It's still at the core of the game.
I wrote my piece on toybox vs. playground styles of gaming after I started brainstorming ideas for the next iteration of A Wilder World, and after I wrote that piece, it helped some of my ideas from that brainstorming session gel into something usable. And as I started threshing them out in draft form, I realized -- possibly because I had just written that essay -- that I had a core system here that could work as a set of playground equipment as well as they would serve as molds for toys for a toybox.
I saw in this a solution to some of my development and testing problems that caused earlier iterations to collapse under their own weight. I decided to focus on developing the core rules as a structure that could be used for any number of quick-and-dirty games where few things are defined up front and the scope and scale of different abilities are handled mostly through narrative negotiation (like in the Fate system, where you can give your character an aspect like "swordwizard" or "battle butler" or "bird lawyer" and then figure out what it means as you go), or as a skeletal structure on which you can build up a more specific game where players are picking from specific gamepieces that have a defined scope and special exception-based rules attached, like in D&D or Powered by the Apocalypse.
Or to jump away from the playground/toybox metaphor, you can use the game as clay that players can model freely or as LEGO brand bricks and accessories that they can use to build things.
This approach will let me test this version of the game as I build it up, instead of starting with a giant toy chest full of different pieces and rules for each individual one.
I've mentioned a few times over the last year or so that I'm moving away from "A Wilder World" as a name because of the likelihood it will cause brand confusion with the Powered by the Apocalypse system, whose derivations are often named in imitation of its original game/setting, Apocalypse World.
I'm not yet ready to settle on a public name for my game of high-flying epic fantasy adventure, but the system it's built on is called Interrobang, which can be abbreviated as "?!" (or by using the actual interrobang punctuation symbol of ‽, where supported). Interrobang started off as "BANG", which at one point was a cheesy and slightly forced acronym for the cheesy and slightly forced names of the elements of character creation. I've settled on Interrobang as the name because I think it captures the rhythm of a tabletop game: the game runner provides a prompt (???) and the players answer it with an action (!!!).
I also like it because I have an RPG system name that abbreviates to something even more twee and precious than a cute acronym.
I still have to do some research regarding prior art, but for now, that's what I'm calling the system. It works as a working title.
With all that said, I'm going to start sharing with you in the next week or so the very basic form of the rules of Interrobang, which anyone reading this may feel free to play with as they see fit.
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