Just as John Tynes approached me and said “I’ve got this game idea that needs mechanics” and we made Unknown Armies, so too did Dennis Detwiller approach me and say the same thing forGODLIKE. Only his concept was “gritty, really gritty, low powered superheroes in World War II. With extra grit.”
So I read what he had and sent many emails and came up with a set of rules I liked. I playtested them a little (with John Tynes, through pure chaos) and realized they just wouldn’t work at all. Those rules turned into Meatbot Massacre, which you may now wish to download for free.
Thinking back, I had another rules-set that never even made it to getting tested… it was, I believe, my way way way old idea for rules for a L5R RPG, back when there was just the card game. Dennis didn’t like those much, either. Were those before or after the ‘semiotomatic’ nascent MBM pitch? I can’t even remember. My memory is not very good.
Third time was the charm. I was working on a lot of World of Darkness stuff at the time, and as this was the old Storyteller engine, I was trying to figure out exactly what the difference was between raising the Target Number and requiring more Successes. “Wouldn’t it be neat,” I asked myself, “if there was a consistent reason for it to be one or the other? That would give you two different types of success from your roll.” That idea was sort of in the back of my head, and floating elsewhere in the broth was a notion about a dice pool system that worked by assembling sets instead of aiming for target numbers. Eventually those two ideas collided. “Hm… if your target number was not an external abstraction from the Game Moderator, but rather produced by all the other numbers that came up in your roll, you’d get two axes of success – one from how many of the dice turned up in the set, and one from how high the number on the dice is. You could unpack a lot more information from just one roll.” It seemed like a good idea, and it wound up working much better than I’d even hoped. I called it the One Roll Engine (or ORE for short) and it was the pleasant surprise of working on GODLIKE.
The unpleasant surprise was the company that published the game.
I just typed up something pretty bitter about them, but I’ve erased it. No real point in raising the bitterness quotient of the internet by one whole billionth. GODLIKE is currently in the hands of ARC DREAM publishing, a penniless itinerant game company with big dreams to release a game called WILD TALENTS some day.
I was not really involved in WILD TALENTS. By that point, money was tight… I don’t remember exactly what was going on, but ‘money was tight’ is always a credible guess about my motivations at various career junctures. Anyhow, I had loads of White Wolf projects in the hopper and, while the ORE was something I loved, I did not have the time to play Rules Rabbi pro bono. Besides, I wasn’t sure it was even a good idea.
WILD TALENTS was pretty much designed by committee through fan input on ARC DREAM’s web site and mailing lists. One big lesson from Unknown Armies is that the game isn’t always what the designer thinks it is. Sometimes it becomes what the fans think it is, and that may even be a good thing. I was very curious to see what the ORE would turn into if Dennis and company could take the best ideas of the loving fans and harmonize them. It’ll either be sublime or a freaking mess. Either way, I’m curious.
At the same time, I started tinkering with the ORE myself. I’d had another ORE project in the fire when my relationship with GODLIKE’s first publisher went so far south it needed a sombrero. I continued refining the system on my own, when I didn’t have other work going on. (Sadly, that’s yielded me something like 100,000 words of ‘dinking around’.) The setting for this next iteration of ORE was a fantasy game called REIGN. Maybe some day it’ll be available and people can see some ORE evolution that is, I have to shamefacedly confess, objectively much better than the version in GODLIKE. One way or another, I’d like to get it out there. Partly, I’ll admit, because I’d like a return on the many naïve hours I’ve sunk into it. But also because REIGN is, in my opinion, my best rules design so far.