So, we’re not going to finish Dragon-Guarded Land by tomorrow. Looks like May is when it’ll be out. We’ve finished the text except for a few small edits, but we’re still waiting on some art and then I have to do layout. Then to get proofs from some print-on-demand services, and we’ll be ready to go.
But there’s one more important point: we don’t like the name. The name of this game has given us trouble since the beginning. We started with Destiny, which was too generic and, we later realized, too much like FATE. We used Loom for a while, but that was opaque and also a LucasArts trademark. We moved on to In a Dragon-Guarded Land, which we’ve lately shortened to Dragon-Guarded Land, because we liked the poem “The Realists” by W.B. Yeats. That title is misleading, opaque, and pretentious. While we love pretension, the other two are deal-breakers.
So we’ve been trying to come up with a better title.We have a few options on the table right now, but before I talk about them, I should talk about what the game is about. A title needs to say some of who, what, where, why, and possibly when and how, and so you need to know more about this game than the little we’ve said. We began this blog after the bulk of development for this game had been completed, so the idea of more open development hadn’t even occurred to us.
So, the game that, for want of a better title, I will call Dragon-Guarded Land is a game designed for telling stories of classic epic-fantasy-heroism. Probably our three biggest influences were Star Wars, Avatar: the Last Airbender, and Exalted, with a dash of Sabriel and Dune to taste.
The game is big, and so the mechanics are big; as Vincent Baker has pointed out, task resolution vs. conflict resolution is different from scale, but this game uses both conflict resolution and a pretty big scale. You get to narrate freely, getting dice towards your ultimate roll-for-victory when your narration hits on your traits. Two flavors of resource get to influence both your total and your ability to narrate consequences to the conflict, too: Destiny, for upholding your cardinal virtue, and Doom, for acting against it. But all of that is relatively familiar.
Where we think we’ve innovated is in creating Arcs. At character creation, players chose an Arc for their character, either from the long list we’ve created or from their own fecund imaginations. These are simply a list of three things that must happen, and three things that may happen, to the character. When these things do happen, that is how characters grow in narrative clout and get all powerful-like. Complete your Arc, and you get to say your story is done. You may chose a new Arc and begin a new bit of your character’s destiny, or just retire that character and make a new one.
So there’s a kind of carrot leading you towards your destiny, rather than a stick pushing you towards it. But that’s half the story. The nature of your opposition is also very important. There’s a Norman Mailer quote that guided us through the design:
Ultimately a hero is a man who would argue with the gods, and so awakens devils to contest his vision. The more a man can achieve, the more he may be certain that the devil will inhabit a part of his creation.
A character’s villains, then, are just that: the character’s. They mirror. They present a twisted image of heroism, and if all goes according to plan, they reveal just how thin the line is between the hero’s virtue and the villain’s vice, before ultimately falling to the hero’s blade.
So what do we name this game? Our themes have had to do with roads, journeys, becoming, etc. Two current top contenders are Becoming Heroes and Road to Glory. I’ve been trying to figure out something to do with mirrors, too, to focus on the villainous aspect.