Commentary on velotha’s flock Part 2: The Product Line

From fairly early conception of velotha’s flock, when it went from being a four-page novelty to a full-fledged game as it were, I decided to make it into a multi-part affair. I want to talk briefly about the reasons why, especially since as a free game I don’t think anyone’s accusing it of being a money-grubbing move.

One of my philosophies of game design is manageable complexity. You want to have a certain amount of crunch and rules in your game, but you don’t want it to become so bloated that you have problems actually playing the game itself.

So the core game was never going to be particularly expansive. I was aiming for 50 pages, and we’ve gone something beyond that since then. That’s still a manageable length. velotha’s flock is generally what I would consider a niche title; it’s not intended to become someone’s main game that they play for aeons and introduce everyone to.

It’s intended to serve as an interlude between larger games, or an experience that can be enjoyed with friends or strangers independent of large commitments.

As a result, the core of velotha’s flock is intended for essentially no more than three sessions.

I don’t know how bold this idea is. Most other games, of course, offer a fair amount of longevity, and indeed encourage it. With velotha’s flock I want to encourage storytelling, rather than character-building, and not penalize mistakes.

It’s a game with simple character creation and simple rules, for complex stories. That may sound oxymoronic, but because the characters are diverse in abilities but not in mechanics it leads to a game that you can actually learn and play just for a one-shot.

So the core game is designed for that experience. It’s built to tell a story, with that actual story being a little flexible. A Game Master can pick up the pieces and assemble them how they want to do so.

With the whole focus being on simplicity, our writing needs to be directed toward quickness and getting hooks in. The free-verse method is, I feel, a fairly good hook, and feedback I’ve received has confirmed this (by the way, you can reach Loreshaper Games, and me by extension, at Facebook, Twitter, or on our Discord).

One of the reasons I went for archetype-based character creation is that it’s compelling. Most of the character creation that isn’t immediately apparent is limited to one of a few options. The archetypes are pretty self-evident by their name, and players can figure out what they want by pretty easily reading a couple descriptions.

One flaw in velotha’s flock that I sort of angst over is the lack of pre-made characters. I have two, but they’re not detailed past the very basic attributes and abilities. It’s just not practical to try to cram in pre-made characters given the length of content I was going for, and I didn’t want to make the rulebook longer and more imposing; the player section of the book (as of writing) comes to 43 pages, and the GM section is another ~10. The rear matter then consists of character cards (another goal: keep things simple enough to fit on a tarot card, because why not push all our themes to 11) and a character sheet.

There is a reason why all the themes in velotha’s flock are heavy: tarot, moon, the archetypes, the hero’s journey, biblical elements, etc. This creates a strong product identity for velotha’s flock, but also draws upon things that people are likely to have some preconceptions of.

This means that half of our world-building is done by association, which makes for unique experiences and a lot of saved space.

The second component of velotha’s flock is a sort of advanced guide (still nailing down the name for it). It’s basically the “how would you do this for velotha’s flock” that takes the game and expands it a little. It includes rules for character advancement, more character options, and the like.

The reason I don’t put these things in the core game is simplicity and remaining low-drag.

So far, velotha’s flock has relatively little burden: make a character, listen, make decisions based on your character’s ability, roll a d12 and a d6 and see what happens.

The advanced guide adds more complexity to that.

It also has the downside of potentially breaking balance. Many of the new options are much more exotic than those in the core rulebook. I believe that this can be managed, and that since a lot of the changes are more narrative than mechanical these wouldn’t break the game anyway, but I don’t want to put something in that makes characters, say, significantly more tough than others, without having it behind a little bit of a warning sign that says “using this content may break your game” since the advanced guide is strictly experimental.

Plus, my friends kept needling me about stuff. That’s what friends are for.

Then, finally, we have a premium adventure/setting for velotha’s flock. The details for this are sort of undecided, but it will take place in a remote region of the world and involve the search for the Promised Land.

It’ll launch for the incredibly exorbitant price of $1.00.

There are a couple reasons for this.

I’m committed to making free games with Loreshapers, but I really want to see how the content does financially: free core, free supplement, paid adventure/fluff.

This will determine how I release and price future things: how much stuff needs to be paywalled for me to keep making games?

Of course, velotha’s flock has a production budget of $0 (and my precious time), so it’s not as bad as, say, the Hammercalled Roleplaying Game, which has a four-figure budget so far and is likely to expand.

So with that in mind, it’s probably not going to be too representative. Right now it’s made me $2.15 in net sales across 54 downloads, which is pretty analogous to how my first game, Street Rats, did. I like to think that it’s much better than Street Rats, in part because it’s actually coherent.

but then it is
written in free verse
by a madman

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