Tips for 2019 Playset Writing
[Editor's Note: Renee asked me (Kyle) to review her post and just submit it when I'm done. Please keep in mind that while I made edits about 2019.1, that this is Renee's article and thus she is accountable for it's content.]
Happy Camp NaNoWriMo!!
During the month of July, writers around the world set their own writing goals to accomplish in 31 days. It’s an adaptation of the annual NaNoWriMo challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days in November.
This year, some of the Weave community–myself included–are dedicating their Camp NaNo goals towards writing Weave playsets. (You’re welcome to join us in the Discord, just let me know that you’re participating!)
Plus, Weave 2019.1 releases in a couple of days. SO, I wanted to write up some tips for writing playsets specifically for Weave 2019 and in general.
Too Much Exposition
There’s a lot to dive into here, so let’s start with the basics–are playsets changing for Weave 2019?
Short answer: yes. [Editor's Note: Yes.]
Long answer: most of the changes in Weave 2019 will be in the ruleset. As we’ve mentioned, the Standard and Advanced rulesets from Weave 2018 will be merging into the singularity. We hope that combining these rulesets will streamline and clarify the rules for new players and for the community on the whole. We want it to work, and we want it to work well, so we’ve been doing a lot of discussing, testing, and writing as we work towards 2019.1's release.
However, the ruleset does affect playsets as well. (It’s all connected, go figure.) These changes will be most noticeable through design and mechanics. And I’m gonna try and explain how some of these changes will affect the writing process while being somewhat vague ahead of the 2019.1 release.
All By Design
Yes, Renee, you like to type—[Editor: She does]—but get to the content changes already. The aesthetic design of the game is changing slightly for 2019.1 in name and UI.
Some names, they are a changin’. Though the names changing may seem purely cosmetic, we hope their reframing will allow for greater possibilities.
- Inventory/Items are becoming Assets. Assets broaden the horizons for this quality, go beyond the limitations of “inventory.” What are some assets that aren’t items that a player can still use?
- Plot Twists are becoming Subplots. We’re working more on subplots for 2019.2, so don’t stress too much about them in your current playset draft. Ideally, they’ll broaden the possibilities for what “plot twists” can be.
- Signature Moves are becoming Ultimates. This is currently slated for 2019.3, so again, don’t worry too much. They’ll mostly be changing in mechanic structure within the rules, but we’ll be able to share more on their functionality later this year.
- Checks are becoming Core Challenges. Checks served a design need for a quick & simple “did you do a thing” resolution. Mechanically, Checks were level 1 Challenges except they only allowed extra dice from a character’s Focus Suit, and Strikes didn’t count. However, there was some confusion over whether any given task should be a Check or a Challenge–and they both used the same core mechanic of “name a suit, set a challenge level, roll dice.” Rather than have two separately-named systems, we’ve renamed the quick & simple resolution system to Core Challenge.
- Focus Suit is becoming Core Suit. Since Core Challenges only allow use of the character’s “core” nature, we’re renaming Focus Suit to Core Suit to match Core Challenge.
The UI in 2019.1 is getting some updates of its own. It will be sleeker, faster, and consistent. How does this effect playset writing? Well, each quality will have its own set space that allows for no more than 280 characters—the length of a tweet. Card quality descriptions should be written with this limit in mind. For those playsets with heavy lore or supplemental content, we’d encourage you to hang on to that, even if there’s not room for it in the quality character count… There will be space for it.
[Editor's Note: We should probably show some unreleased UI to explain this better.]
Your Ambitions Are [Advanced]
While the ruleset is combining into the singularity, Weave 2019 will look most like Advanced from 2018. As we roll out updates in the coming months, playsets written to Advanced will be approximately 90% – [Editor: 91%] – ready for Weave 2019 and the Playset Creator. If you have a playset written to Standard, adding mechanics is going to be the next step. Here’s very generally how that will look:
In Advanced and Weave 2019, Backstories determine the dice pool you can roll for challenge suits. For example, a background may be assigned BROOKS and GALES, which will give the character +1 die to the base pool of three for each Brooks and Gales challenge. Another background may have two FLAMES tags, so it will bring that character’s dice pool up to five for Flames challenges.
As you write backgrounds, consider how it may affect the character’s abilities and designate which two suits may be associated with it.
Talents and Flaws
Talents and Flaws will both need an accompanying mechanic. What happens if the use of the Talent is successful? How does the Flaw negatively impact the player in certain scenarios? There are a number of mechanics that could come into play here: gaining or losing a die in certain scenarios, ignoring strikes from certain types of damage, re-rolling strikes, etc.
Talents can also have triggers–a way to make them more powerful or more dangerous. If you roll two or three additional suit symbols on a roll to use your Talent, an additional effect might be triggered. Triggers are not necessary for every Talent, but some may benefit from having one.
As you write Talents, first associate it with one challenge suit. For Talents and Flaws, add mechanics that will influence the game in a way that works well with the description. Lastly, add a trigger if it suits the Talent.
As I’ve said, Inventory/Items is becoming Assets. Most Assets will also need a mechanic. For instance, a sword may have a mechanic of dealing three additional strikes of damage on a hit. A high-quality scope might allow a re-roll of one strike. Other assets may add a benefit outside of combat.
As you write Assets, similarly to Talents, add mechanics that will influence the game and make sense for the Asset.
A Shining Ideal
These tips have all been pretty general so far, and more context for mechanics will be available when 2019.1 releases July 4. In addition to the Weave 2019-specific suggestions to playset writing, these are some tips we’ve discovered that may help you write an ideal playset.
- Scan in cards from other playsets. Currently, Goblins R Jerks and Xorte: IO will provide the best context for 2019 mechanics because they are written to Advanced. Both are currently in the editing process for 2019.1 and will be a good option to scan cards in and get inspiration for mechanics in your own playset.
- Find inspiration everywhere. If you’re ever stuck on your playset, your favorite TV show or video game might provide the inspiration you need for a card quality, even if it’s not the same genre as your playset.
- [Editor's Note: be sure to make as many references to David Bowie in the Owl card as possible. You may think it gets old, but trust me– it doesn't.]
- Think like a writer and game designer. The text and world-building all fits with a writer role, but the mechanics incorporate a lot of game design. Whether this means taking on both roles or teaming up with someone who can fulfill the other role, you’ll have to tackle both in your playset.
- Diversify backgrounds. If backgrounds determine each player’s dice pools, try to diversify the suits assigned to each background across each card and the entire playset.
- Diversify mechanics. What are the benefits you want Talents or Assets to provide? Extra dice, re-rolls, thematic, etc.–there are a lot of options for what mechanics can do, and you’ll want variety.
- Mechanics do not live in isolation. Mechanics should work together like a set of interlocking gears. They should work cohesively across cards and playsets to make engaging characters and fun gameplay.
- Play testing is iteration. To help figure out if your mechanics are working like you want, try play testing your set with friends. There’s a new channel in the Weave community Discord specifically for setting up play testing times if you need some help with testing character building, mechanics, and more for your playset.
[Editor's Note: Write something that summarizes everything here, and don't forget to mention that 2019.1 is only the first of three major updates to Weave this year. Try not to talk about unannounced features or that Gen-Con is going to be invisibly sprinkled with an insanely cool Weave freebie... Renee.]
That's a lot, and there's definitely still more I could dive into regarding playset writing. If there are any aspects of playset wrting you'd like to hear about in greater depth, let me know! Happy Camp NaNo, and good luck writing your playsets!