We have another interview for you, this time from T. Dave Silva of House Dok. His new supers game, Metahumans Rising, is currently on Kickstarter.
Accessible Games: First of all, thanks for taking the time to talk about accessibility with us. For those of us who aren’t familiar with your work, can you tell us a little about yourself and what you’ve published in the past?
DS: As a gamer for about 30 years I’ve played, I don’t know how many, different RPGs. I think that the indie press shift for role playing games has really opened the door for people to express ideas or themes that might not have been represented in the past. It’s part of what inspired me to try and publish our first book, Fractured Kingdom.
Released in 2013 Fractured Kingdom is a game of mysticism and conspiracy in the dark future. It was a way to explore how different people interpret the same thing, becoming an outsider, and finding your family because of it. Oh, and cool supernatural powers.
AG: You have a new project on Kickstarter for Metahumans Rising. What’s this game about, and what sets it apart from your other work?
DS: Quite a bit actually. Fractured Kingdom saw characters who would be ground down by struggle, eventually they would be in desperate situations with very few resources. This would force them to make incredibly difficult decisions, to do things that they might find extremely questionable or even morally wrong just to survive.
Metahumans Rising takes an extremely different approach. The characters are heroes, and while the tone may vary wildly from campaign to campaign, heroes rise to the occasion. This idea is supported by the game through motivations and Willpower which let heroes shine especially when things are at their worst.
AG: Fractured Kingdom was set in a dark fantasy world and had what I would describe as “moderate crunch” in terms of mechanics. What does Metahumans Rising do similarly, and what does it do differently?
DS: For the Fractured Kingdom fans, things will look similar, but a lot has actually changed. Mechanically things have been streamlined for faster resolution and rolling 6s provide escalating degrees of success. This means heroes are capable of turning failures into a successes on a good roll. However, the biggest change comes with how we look at characters personal development and how players interact with the narrative. When you begin making your character you define a few basic concepts, why are you a hero, what pushes you beyond your limits, what is the source of your abilities? These questions become the framework for your character. During gameplay these are things that you can call on to directly influence the story and personalize the narrative. In doing this Heroes build Willpower. Willpower is the fuel that lets heroes go beyond their limits and pull off incredible stunts.
We’re released previews of two of our signature characters Bulwark and Crossfire. Bulwark’s power is called Volcanic Body, he’s strong, tough and painful to the touch. In a fight he might punch someone, or by spending Willpower stomp his foot causing a fissure to break open below his foes. Crossfire is our archer, he has no actual super powers. In a battle he might use Willpower to pull out bolo or electric arrow. These things are not on their character sheets but are thematically appropriate and so with Willpower become stunts they are capable of doing.
AG: In my review of Fractured Kingdom, I wrote that the game was mostly accessible but there were a few pain points. What have you learned since publishing FK that will help you make MR even better?
DS: Before, we mentioned that things have been streamlined. Things like health, ego, and energy have been boiled down to stamina, a single measure of your hero’s overall well-being. There are no more long list of different Boons. Instead, player designed their own powers based on descriptive keywords. Also, players don’t have to define every aspect of their character before the start of game play. The framework for Metahumans Rising is flexible enough that as long as you have a description of who your character is, what they’re fighting for, and what your powers looks like you can jump right into the action and fill in the blanks as you go.
AG: You’ve expressed to me that you’re devoted to accessibility and inclusivity with your games. What else is MR doing to meet those goals?
DS: Let me address accessibility first. There are not a lot of complex rules and everything is designed to work together. Stories can include difficult situations like being trapped in a burning building while battling a super villain without getting bogged down in minor details. This makes it easy for someone new to the hobby to pick up and start playing, including younger players.
On the topic of inclusivity, the first step in a new campaign is the scope. Everyone works together to establish the tone and feel of the world they will inhabit. This includes discussing Lines and Veils along with everything people want to see. By establishing this up front you create a more immersive environment and are less likely to be pulled out by something that doesn’t fit. Character creation is meant to be done together with the last step being a team origin. This starts everyone off learning about each teammate and building a group dynamic.
AG: Are you also trying to be inclusive with your art, storytelling, etc.?
DS: Very much so. Our signature team, the Steel Aces are comprised of eight heroes, five men and three women. The characters come from a diverse number of backgrounds. You may have seen the picture of Guardian on the main Kickstarter page. She is the granddaughter of a hero from World War II named American Steel, the crest but she wears is a tribute to him. Guardian inherited her grandfather’s strength and durability and is the leader of the Steel Aces. Two of our heroes, Bulwark and Elf no longer look human and struggle to connect with others. Without getting too political, the hero Ronin deals with issues similar to those many Veterans may struggle with.
When designing the Steel Aces we wanted characters people could relate to on some level. Of course they are superheroes, they have amazing powers and abilities, but each of them possesses one or more universal themes that I think people can connect with.
AG note: DS also said the following to me in a previous email not in direct response to these interview questions.
DS: On the topic of inclusion and diversity, this is something I really tried to weave into the background of the setting in a way that felt natural. When developing the signature heroes for the game I wanted to avoid the collection of white males in charge with scantily clad women in danger. Our signature team is comprised of an ethnically diverse group from very different walks of life. Comprised of three women, four men and an alien from a gender adaptive race. Their individual backgrounds focus on what makes them heroes not what makes them different from older hero stereotypes.
While we haven’t released her bio page yet, the teams leader is a woman named Guardian. You can see her portrait piece on the main page. Her story line focus on living up to the ideals set out by her grand father, one of the first modern superheroes. However, one of her central motivations focuses on equality and fair treatment of others. Another member of the team, Vigilant is a former masked crime fighter from the forties. He carries on the fight despite his age using a suit of power armor. We tried to ensure that each character felt like there was something people could connect to in that way.
This is also reflected in the art direction, the female heroes wear functional clothing, not miniskirts and high heels. Our most scantily clad hero is Elf, who we recently did an update on, she wears a full body suit and cape.
AG: Does the game use miniatures, battle maps, cards, specialized dice, or other props that may need to be adapted for people with disabilities?
DS: Because we wanted a comic book feel, we stepped away from things like miniatures and focused more on the theater of the mind. Things like range are determined by increments, close, short, medium, etc. The game’s resolution mechanic uses regular six sided dice and there are dice rollers websites which can add a base value, count the number of 6’s or double a dice rolls value.
AG: Can you describe your core dice mechanic in three sentences or less?
DS: Declare your action and determine if you have any supporting characteristics. Roll between 2 and 6 dice based on those characteristics and add it to the base value then compare it to the task’s difficulty. Check for any 6’s, this can increase your degree of success.
AG: Are Kickstarter backers able to get a preview of the game, or do they have to wait for the big reveal?
DS: For now we are only releasing updates via Kickstarter. The game still needs to go through editing and layout and for that we need our fans and the Kickstarter community’s support. We don’t want to give the wrong impression by showing things that need those last steps.
AG: Fantastic. Where else can we find more information?
DS: Recently we had a major update to the Kickstarter FAQ. There are also a number of great updates on the page with additional information. For more you can always go to www.housedok.com, https://www.facebook.com/MetahumansRising, or find me on G+ https://plus.google.com/u/0/+DaveCertifiedS
AG: If you could have any super power, what would it be, and how would you use it to make (or acquire) dinner?
DS: Wow, two parter. I’m going to go with regeneration and in a pinch there’s that old adage about being so hungry you could eat your own arm…
AG: Ha! Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share with our readers?
DS: We want to hear from you. If you want to know more please leave a comment on the Kickstarter page, or find me on G+, or Facebook.