Game Designer Notes: Alan Bahr of Planet Mercenary: The Roleplaying Game

PlanetMercenary_FeaturedHey, so I’m Alan Bahr. I’m the designer and developer of the Planet Mercenary RPG from a rules stand-point, and I provide various other sundry roles and assistance to the Tayler Corporation team in relation to the Planet Mercenary RPG.

So by this point, you’ve probably had a chance to listen to the Planet Mercenary: The Roleplaying Game on Fandible.

The Fandible crew was great, and one of the things I enjoyed the most (besides the awesome listening) was the fact that after the podcast, they recorded themselves talking about the rules and what they struggled with, liked, and other feedback. They’re also talking about casino games and answering other casino questions; click here to learn more about what they’ve talked about.

Some of the feedback we got was just the usefulness the other individual provided in seeing the layout and rules we’d written.  Part of the problem is, that in my head, all the gaps in the rules are filled in. All the mistakes get glossed over, because I know what I’m trying to say. The Fandible team exchanged emails with me, gave me feedback and suggestions, and let me have a chance to explain. We’ll talk about a few of the specifics they didn’t like, parts they did and more.

1.)    Complications – The team gave me feedback that the complication deck came up far too much and it lost impact. We designed the Complication deck to be a mechanic that you can mitigate through RiPPs (roleplay points). If the Game Chief (the GM) doesn’t like the complication (for whatever reason), he can award each player a RiPP and ignore the complication. This mechanic is designed to be used excessively. As a Game Chief, I tend to mitigate 50% of the complications that come up. Players also tend to mitigate another 25% with their RiPPs. The complications are designed to provide humor, twists, and excitement, not derail the game. That’s why we built a lot of ways to work around them into the game, since games are really popular these days, and there are even games where you can make money, such playing dadu online which is one of the most popular Casino games there.
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Apparently, Jesus had neglected to use the Game Chief Fiat and negate any complication that came up. Part of the reason for the Game Chief Fiat is to allow for players to receive more RiPPs. It’s all well and good to create a resource the GC hands back to players, but we all know that GC’s forget, players have to ask and sometimes it can get awkward. This mechanic allows for both rewards, and removes the GC having to remember to reward players for other things that they’ll often forget.

Solution – Part of the solution is just making sure the rule is communicated. Part of the solution is making sure complications don’t come up too much. So we changed the complication rule to apply to any successful roll only, where the complication dice (the 1 different colored d6) is the highest (no longer tied). That cut our complication draws by a third on its own. Much better.

2.)    Lethality – Apparently characters die in Schlock! I jest, but seriously. It’s a thing. Expect death eventually. On our dev website, I talk here and here about how we plan to mitigate or use lethality as a mechanic. More RiPPs equals more lives. But, there’s something to be said for characters that die in one or two hits.

 Solution – We did modify the health rules a little bit. The original rules were unchanged from the beta iteration of the game, and since Howard had met with me and we’d tweaked the weapons, they were overdue for a change. Effectively, players now have an option that can up to double their health during character creation if they want.

3.)    General Discussion – I was really impressed with the level of discussion and insight that the Fandible team brought to our conversation. Just speaking with them, hearing their feedback, and more was a huge bonus for me. It really sold me on what Howard and I had created, and helped me solidify some weak points that had popped up. I owe them a huge thanks. I’m gonna be reaching out to them a lot for feedback in the future.

I can’t say thanks enough for everyone that listened to the podcast, backed our Kickstarter, or in general just loves RPGs and wants to play. RPGs are a huge part of my life, a huge drive for me, and to finally get to sit in the creator’s chair and see the joy something I made is bringing to people? Heck yeah.

If you see me at a con, show me your PM:RPG challenge coin. I’ll stand you a drink (or you buy. I’m flexible). We’ll talk, tell stories about heroic grunts, captains, and crazy space tyrant koalas.


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