December 10, 2015

My Micro Games: Umami Chef and Yamamichi

Very recently, I have become enamored with the idea of self publishing/DIY. I've always enjoyed making things and two years ago, when I decided to print one of my now wife's stories she wrote,  I got flung down this self publishing rabbit hole. I used a site called to create her book into a paperback. Holding a physical copy of a digital document, bound together just like the other books in the bookstore gave me a weird sense of accomplishment. I didn't write the story, yet I learned that in today's digital era it can be super easy to something that could never had been done before.

Shortly after this, my creative switch was hit and the idea of self publishing a game became a reality. For years, I worked on putting together small micro games that I could publish and print through the Game Crafter website. This culminated into a small game we put out this year called Mars to Jupiter.  But it wasn't till recently that I decided I wanted to try and tackle publishing an RPG.

A few months ago, I started learning about zine culture. I remember hearing about them from the Anime FLCL, in which they're described almost like a guerrilla medium. So I started tossing around the idea of publishing a micro zine basically for myself. In it I would talk about my thoughts on gaming along with other articles from my friends and family. I also told myself that I could probably print a small game or system in it. I ran a test run creating a small 8 page booklet zine which featured the Lasers and Feelings game in it and I thought it was great (of course it was, I made it right?). But shortly after, I realized that I had never really created an RPG, and that finding a small enough system that I could print would be nearly impossible after a while.

So I decided to give a shot a creating a micro RPG. My wife and I both submitted entries into the 200 word RPG contest. Neither of these games were elegant or inventive. Shortly after that though, at my Saturday game night, we joked about combat chefs, and I mentioned something about creating that game. After that night, it only took a day or so before I had created a micro game called Umami Chef. And now a week ago, I decided to try my hand at creating another system called Yamamichi, this one tackling the obstacle of trying to feel like a Studio Ghibli movie. While Yamamichi is still being worked on, Umami Chef was done and I pretty much left it on Facebook to stay. But it wasn't till today at lunch that I was reflecting on what I was looking for when building the game.

While the game can thank Lasers and Feelings for being its legged fish to my frog, I had a few core tenants that I wanted to follow and huge pitfalls I wanted to avoid when creating this 1 page document. I wanted there to be some form of normality to the dice. I chose rolling and totaling regular six-sided dice over a roll for successes model, making the game more predictable. A target number system is used with the predictability of normal rolls to create fair challenges to the players. I wanted to prune the advantage and success with style ideas from Fate and FFG's Star Wars RPG and morphed that into the rolling doubles rule, which can happen on a success of failure. I wanted to avoid adding static skill/stat numbers, so I came up with the exploding stat. I really liked the idea of a stat that lowered the number that the dice explode on. Exploding dice are fun, and allow for the stand up and cheer moments, but the stat should also reflect that you can't always pass every challenge. I felt like it was important to feel better at something than other people, and that teamwork will be required to complete the story.

Being a small micro system, Umami Chef really doesn't need any form of advancement. Reflecting on it, I could have used that space to help develop the theme of the game, as it will most likely see play as just a one shot. More examples might also have been helpful, but I really wanted to keep it down to a single page. I plan on reskinning Umami Chef into a game about reporters and press called Scoop, and I think I will make these changes for it. For Yamamichi, I am expanding into a single page, double sided. I am also cribbing some of the ideas I liked from Umami Chef into Yamamichi including the dice normality, target number system and traits adding dice. But for Yamamichi, I am ditching exploding dice and stats for a roll/keep system.

Creating these two games has been a lot of fun. I'm hoping to eventually create a small 8-12 page booklet game, but I'm not sure on what and how I can make the mechanics interesting enough to do so. But for now I'll keep creating the small games until I get a good hang of what I'm doing. I have a list of things that make me like an RPG, and I'm going to try and reflect on those before moving forward. I also don't want to steal concepts and mechanics from other systems that I adore like The One Ring or FFG's Star Wars. I think that will be the hard part...

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