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The secrets of splat creation

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  • The secrets of splat creation

    The point of this post is to share ones experiences, wisdom and guidance when attempting to create fan splats. I see every now and then a new fan splat will pop up and most sadly never go past the point of the creator making an initial inspired post, and then fading into obscurity. Some however make it, Genius: The Transgression seems to be the msot successful. Whether your a die hard fan, or you hate it with a passion, its pretty well known. Beneath that we've got Princess the Hopeful, Leviathan and Dragon. A few more i'm sure but my memory fails me.

    But what lessons were learned in their creation, what wisdom can be past on?

    I've personally been working on my own fan splat for 8 months now. So far I've kept the details to myself (i decided i wasn't going to be one of those people who shares the initial idea and then vanishes.) I always knew it would be hard, but even I wasnt prepared for just how hard. It turns out coming up with vast lists of decent powers is actually quiet hard.

    So what I've learnt? Work in stages, Review your work, aim for fun, you need to like your own stuff.

    The first attempt, myself and my friend whos helping me, created a list of all abilites and powers. We aimed for balance quiet heavily. What we created was quiet good, if you had 5-7 full trees. But even then, it was boring as hell. We'd aimed for a variant system that had a lot of passive bonuses rather than active abilities. It sounded good at the time, but it turned out to be pretty boring. There was just no excitement, and you ended up with a host of abilities no one was likely to invest the exp cost for.

    We threw out the majority of it, kept the core concepts and started again. This time we had a lot more active abilities, they are more exciting by nature, and we toned down our balance appraoch in favor of some stuff that was actually exciting. We learnt the lesson that sometime you can get away with a weaker power in a tree, if the other ones are great.

    Our 3rd review took the form of making things more powerful even again. Our attempts at balance had made us tone things down, so as not to step on the toes of other splats. Thats not a bad thing in and of itself, but it is a bad thing when you tone down things your own splat should be good at, for no other good reason. So our 3rd review has been one of amping things up to the point where the stuff is really exciting. I think i understand now why designers often start overpowered and then tone down.

    We've got a long way to go, and more lessons to learn yet. Putting fluff together, how to combine ideas into practice on paper, and how to do a proper play testing of a product with so few people.

    So what are some of your experiences, or thoughts of wisdom?

  • #2
    I've never done it myself, but thought about it. I'd like to see the advice other people have, or even the developers.

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    • #3
      Doy ou perhaps have the three drafts on the web anywhere? I'd love to see what you changed and learn from it!

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      • #4
        DISCLAIMER: This post is long. I'm terribly sorry for that, but I started writing and got myself way too started on this. It feels like a waste to delete it now, so I'll post it. This basically explains the stages of developement and thought process that went into a splat me a few of my buddies are working on, from the start up to this point. Read it if you please, but I really dont expect anyone to. If Long posts are taboo, then I apologise immensely.

        Well, I've been fiddling for a while now with something that I suppose can be called a fan-splat. Its not really meant for the standard WoD setting though, but rather its meant for the setting of a campaign we've been running now for like 4-5 years, with no end yet in sight and the plot hasn’t gone stale. A bloody good campaign, if I was to say so myself.
        Anyway, I've actually found the creation of that splat incredibly easy. I more or less just sat down and started writing, and the thing almost wrote itself. I've even written a few short novels to flesh out a few of the themes. I think my ease with writing doesn’t really owe to me being a talented writer or anything of the sort. I don’t think I'm a terrible author, but I don’t consider myself a great one either. I think the ease with which I wrote it, stems from the fact that by the time I started writing, we had already been running the campaign for like 2-3 years, and by extension I had a good 2-3 years worth of experience with the themes, ideas, powers and general feel of the thing.
        The idea of the splat, is to create the old trope of "Power-mad magician" for the setting that we're playing, which I again stress is not standard WoD setting, but rather a grim-dark medieval setting. Basically, I've been spit-balling with my friends and the GM all the way through, trying to get their opinion on if what I had been writing was cool/balance/appropriate or not.
        One of the major strengths I also think, was that since I needn't be concerned with perhaps going into existing splats territory ability-wise, since we needn't account for those. This was, after all, a different setting. That is not to say I used that freedom to steal with arms and legs, mind you.
        The theme of the splat, as I said, was to be the acquisition of forbidden power and knowledge, at the detriment of your own sanity and soul. Sort of a "Mage; The Awakening meets Cthulhu"-kind of thing, theme wise. We had decided that there should be three different kind of these Mages, which we had called Warlocks to differentiate them from the Wizards and Sorcerers, which in this setting refers to what you’d expect from the DnD pathfinder setting. Every kind of Warlock had enacted something that we by this point just called a "Warlock-Pact", and by now call "The Rite of Renewal", which has connected his soul to some ancient blasphemous force that lingers outside standard reality. We had Void-Warlocks as they were just called by this point, which connected to a vast, endless cosmic nothing. A space of pure nihilism and insanity, devoid of all human emotion and filled with quasi-material beings who could offer power and shatter sanities by mere existence. Essentially Cthulhu. Then we had Pit-Warlocks who connected to a place which by this point was called Inferno, which housed demonic hosts, who follow an insanely intricate byzantine hierarchy and trafficked human souls, emotions and magical essence as currency.
        Lastly, we had the third kind, which was my characters kind of Warlock. They were called Fey-Warlocks to start things off, and they are connected to a quasi-sentient mix between a reality-cancer and unadulterated force of evolution. It sparks change and mutation in whatever it can, all in the name of some cosmic natural-selection that it forcibly tries to foist upon people and places, or alternately sickens them under its smothering influence. I've since come to intensely dislike the name of "Fey" for this particular thing, btw. We've come up with new names for all of the three, but right now I'm talking in early stages. While I didn't need to not overstep the toes of other standard WoD splats, I had these other kinds of Warlocks to consider, which account for something. Even though nobody in our group were playing another Warlock by this point, it was still worth considering for later times.
        When I started writing this I had just become familiar with the Mage; The Awakening splat, and felt like this provided an excellent tool-box for what I wanted to do. Since day one of this campaign, which by this point was like 2-3 years in the past, we had been doing things like they do in Mage; The Awakening, despite none of us even knowing how that particular system worked. I had a merit called "Fey Pact" and it allowed me to do a few nifty things that all centered around either mutation, sickness and disease, summoning or outright damage if I just asked the GM if I could. Just like the improvised magic in Mage. So it felt natural to just look at what I had been able to do, as I advanced up the ranks of this merit throughout the scenario and go "Well. I was able to summon sanity-shattering monstrosities by dot 3, but not able to crumble the walls of reality before dot 4-5, so that’s sets that down.". I knew by this point, that I wanted Fey-Warlocks to be the most outright combat focused of the three, with Pit-Warlocks being the most utility heavy with a lot of social combat abilities, owning to their byzantine hierarchy and all that, with Void-Warlocks being the in-betweener who had a little of both.
        Then it was just a matter of rummaging my memory for what I had been able to do when, and ask my GM when my own memory failed me, and before long I had a new arcana centered around summoning, controlling and mutating monsters from outside reality and sickening or killing your victims with powers drawn from a sentient disease.
        I added a new system called "Corruption", as a kind of double edged sword for the Warlocks, which caused both themselves and their victims to go mad and mutate in unpredictable ways, and a new system of bi-arcana, which was essentially 5 new Arcana that modified the standard Fey-Arcana in specific ways depending on your own Warlocks personal views of Fey.
        I created a category of merits called Mutations, which were your Warlock becomming tainted by the magic he uses, and starts taking on aspects of the creatures native to the world from which he draws his power. Lastly, I made almost all of the spells require a degenration roll at about Wisdom 3-5, to really hammer in the blasphemous nature of this kind of sorcery.

        By this point it was essentially an extensive add-on to Mage; The Awakening, with a single Arcana to tie it together and 5 bi-arcana to create a slight sense of customization and personalisation. However, after looking it over, and play testing for a while, we found that this didn't provide the results we were looking for. We wanted Warlocks to stand on their own within the system, and not be tied in with Mage, despite slight thematic simmilarities. Our reason for this change, was the fact that the way things were in the Mage-add-on stage, didn't provide for alot of customization. Sure, you had your bi-Arcana to set them apart slightly, but that can only go so far. At that point, every Warlock felt alot alike, having almost all the same abillities and weaknesses. We didn't like this. This happened just a few months ago, that we came to the realization that it simply didn't work as an addon for Mage, and we scrapped the idea. We've since remade the 5 bi-arcana into 5 wholly seperate types of Fey-Warlocks, in the same sense that every other splat has 5 different kinds of sub-splats with their own thematic strenghts and emphasis. We've scrapped the idea of Gnosis and Wisdom as being their power and morality-stat respectively and replaced them with ones that better emphasise the Warlocks nature as power-hungry doom-driven mad-men on an insane gambit for more power, regardless of the consequenses and we've remade the spells of the Fey-Arcana into a category of supernatural powers called Omens, of which there are currently 6 different categorise, 5 of which are linked to the 5 different kinds of Fey-Warlocks we currently have.

        The original document, pre-remake, totalled in at about 41400 words and 93 pages, which was for the Fey-Warlocks alone back when it was just an add-on for Mage. The remake started being undertaken at about the same time as work started on the Pit-Warlocks, so I cant say how much we're peaking in at now.
        This is actually not the first time my group has experimented with fan-splats, but its the only one I've been immersed in as deeply as I have with this, basically it being me that has been the driving force behind it.

        Well. That was a mouthful. Pretty sure this is Tl;DR, but fuck it, here it is. Again, I'm sorry for the lenght of this thing, but i felt that if I was to start talking about my experience with fan-splats, I might aswell go all out.


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        • #5
          Some pretty cool stuff right there, thanks for sharing that Krobeless.

          Vree I do have some of our original notes but unfortunately thanks to bad filing and poor save routines we have lost a lot of our records several times. My friend lost his flash drive, had his computer die, fail to save a document and we've misplaced our papers. Thankfully I had a good enough memory to get us back to roughly where we were.

          I'm not inclined to share these documents right now though because I'm keeping pretty much everything underwraps till i'm happy with it. Ironically it'll probably be a TLDR artical by the time i'm finished. I've got 12, 5 dot trees for example. Almost all populated now. But as I mentioned above I can already name 3 trees that feel weak and lackluster and so will need yet another review. Its interesting though, sometimes what you like isnt what other people like. Thats what I look forward to seeing.

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          • #6
            I've never really come up with a fansplat...wait, or have I? My homebrew archive is poorly maintained, and I vaguely remember doing a minor template for Vampire...? Uh, anyway, let's say I haven't and go with that. I have done a lot of fan stuff, though, so I feel like I can bloviate on this subject a little.

            I'd say there are three things a person would want to consider for a splat. My thinking has less to do with mechanics, and more to do with what makes a good concept for a splat. This is also more for people who want to release something out into the wild, rather than something that's attuned to a particular table.

            Caveat: This advice is significantly more conservative than my thinking actually is on fansplats, but sometimes a really stringent guideline can help foster good ideas.

            1) Does it fit in the World of Darkness? For example, despite all the speculation about an Alien game for 2015, I really don't think it would fit the setting (albeit marginally). For a fansplat, YMMV, because some groups might be super keen to play an Alien game in the same universe as Vampire and Promethean--I would, come to think of it, but I wouldn't really be needing a whole splat. Anyway, example notwithstanding, this is an important consideration, because if you're making a fansplat for WoD, it's WoD for a reason. Unless you just want to use the Storytelling System as a base for a homemade game world, but that's not the same thing.

            2) Does it have a horror niche that hasn't been covered? For example, an Angel game would probably be a bit redundant now. Obviously Demon doesn't cover all the traditional tropes (and they ARE demons, not angels), but even on the surface, a lot of people might just say, "Why don't I just grab the Demon Translation Guide and do my own thing?" Again, YMMV. One might have a lot of friends who say, "Screw Demon, we can do it better!" But, if a designer wants to make a fansplat other people will play--outside her group of friends--she needs to find a new hook.

            3) Will other people want to play it? This is the most subjective of all, and less of an iron clad rule and more a final consideration. A fansplat might just be for your friends. In which case, if they find it fun, nothing else matters. And, of course, you never can tell what's gonna bomb and what's gonna be a hit. But if it's wholly personal, it probably should stay that way (THAT SOUNDS SO MEAN; I HOPE YOU ALL KNOW WHAT I MEAN BY THAT AND THAT I'M NOT BEING A DICK ON PURPOSE ;_; )

            Like I said, that list is a lot more particular and exacting than I actually think it needs to be. Half the fun of a fansplat is coming up with a creature you aren't likely to see from an official source, or even doing a different take on something thathas been done. Being niche is a feature, not a bug. But I find that I work best within a constraint, and perhaps other people do, too.



            Social justice vampire/freelancer | He/Him

            VtR: Curses of Caine in Requiem 2ndTricks of the DamnedBtP: Secrets of VancouverCofD: The CabinActual Play: Vampire: The Requiem – Bloodlines
            Podcast: The Breakup, a podcast about destroying the things you love by giving them away

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Yossarian View Post
              ....

              1) Does it fit in the World of Darkness? For example, despite all the speculation about an Alien game for 2015, I really don't think it would fit the setting (albeit marginally). For a fansplat, YMMV, because some groups might be super keen to play an Alien game in the same universe as Vampire and Promethean--I would, come to think of it, but I wouldn't really be needing a whole splat. Anyway, example notwithstanding, this is an important consideration, because if you're making a fansplat for WoD, it's WoD for a reason. Unless you just want to use the Storytelling System as a base for a homemade game world, but that's not the same thing.
              ....
              I would kill for an Alien-type game. Of course, my WoD already has God's honest Aliens in it. (though, not my world's UFOs. Those are other, stranger, things.) So, for my WoD it wouldn't stand out too much.


              My Homebrew
              Star Wars d10
              The Fallen for Demon: the Descent
              Requiem for a Masquerade: VtR 2e Cainite Conversion (Vampira Roma)

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Dreaminggod View Post

                I would kill for an Alien-type game. Of course, my WoD already has God's honest Aliens in it. (though, not my world's UFOs. Those are other, stranger, things.) So, for my WoD it wouldn't stand out too much.
                Oh yeah, that's the big exception to my point. NWoD is such a toolbox, you can do anything with it. And it's encouraged!



                Social justice vampire/freelancer | He/Him

                VtR: Curses of Caine in Requiem 2ndTricks of the DamnedBtP: Secrets of VancouverCofD: The CabinActual Play: Vampire: The Requiem – Bloodlines
                Podcast: The Breakup, a podcast about destroying the things you love by giving them away

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                • #9
                  I had an idea for splat but the kicker is it didn't take place in the world of darkness though the setting has similarities. It's still pretty scary and screwed up with my strange depiction of fairies being basically humanoid arthropods that life in a different reality that overlaps our own. We humans just don't notice it.

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                  • #10
                    I worked already on three splats outside the world of darkness, but using the system and keeping compatibility (more than balance proper).None is fully complete, yet, but two are playable already with some effort, and the other is on its way.

                    First I did was, believe it, Pokemon. By now I did already three chronicles with it, it being my most well developed work. I'm working the Trainers just with Merits and a rule for the Experiences you can "give" to your Pokemon by training, but the monsters I developed as a kid of splat, to the point where you can play as one if you want (and even play as one and still be a trainer). I learned a lot of how the mathematics behind the system work with this project, and it gave me the first and most important lesson on development: learn by error. The more you want things to work perfectly the first time, the less you'll progress. As a rule of thumb, is far easier to understand why a bad idea went wrong than why a good idea went right, so the bad idea is far better for the process.

                    Second I did a DC Lantern Corps adaptation. The interesting tweak here was to make the splat work truly as a superposing template. The character is a Lantern as long as she wear the ring, and there is nothing that should keep anyone from becoming a Lantern, so it is meant for stack. I based it on the 1st ed. Mage, but with fixed Light Points instead of target successes, so the character have total control of the outcome's power, but needs to take care with recharge restrictions. It taught me the second lesson: stay with the system, do not stray from it. The unique properties of your splat can make you want unique systems for them, but you should always ask if you need to. Before you think about new awesome traits, think about how the character uses the traits already in the system. Think how you can make things work with whatever you have already on the character sheet. You should only create a new mechanic if it really adds something to the game that wouldn't be there other way.

                    Third I did Shin Megami Tensei: Persona. Of the three projects it is the closer to the CofD setting, but the harder to actually develop. I'm still pulling out what I need to play the first game with it, but it already taught me the third lesson: don't overdo details. In fluff, you can think of a hell of a lot of details that color your splat and that you think as really important. On rules, most of them are not, and coming with rules that address too much things isn't just hard, but actually counterproductive. Instead, let fluff be fluff. If you don't know how to address a given idea through rules, try to not do it at first. If something seems too complex, keep it also out of rules. You'll fill in the gaps later more easily with a broader, lighter, but more functional system.


                    Sorry if I seem too straightforward, or if I don't get you. Autism isn't a forgiving condition.

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                    • #11
                      From what I did for Siren and asked what other people thought was important in creating Fansplats; The most important I can say is that when you have a mood and theme in mind, do not stray from it. That's basically what the gameline is centered around, and deviating from it takes the focus away from it.

                      From my own ideas and experience with Siren, I can say that I've been going over things I've made months ago, editing the grammar, revising powers or the like, or coming up with new ideas that would improve or replace the old ones. The best tip I can give in general is that there is always room for improvement.


                      Currently Doing: Siren the Drowning (Fansplat Ressurection) http://forum.theonyxpath.com/forum/m...e-resurrection

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