So there's a game design I've been working on (and off) for the past year or so, called Jesters, where the basic idea is that each player is an indie jester working on the medieval entertainment scene. After a couple of early versions that didn't really work in playtests, the third main version worked reasonably well and drew some prototype requests from some small publishers who had read the rules. But the thing is, once I playtested that version, which was kind of a combination of worker placement, efficiency and area majority, I was thinking, yeah, there's some strategy involved here and the framework of the game system works at least (which I couldn't say about the previous versions), but it's *really dry* and it's just not really the kind of game I wanted to create or would want to play... (Imagine that, worker placement + efficiency + area majority = dry?!)
So I kind of shelved the idea for a while and mused on some different ways to inject more life into the game. In recent months I started to get an interest in checking out some of the adventure games out there, which I hadn't really played before... Talisman, Prophecy, Runebound, Return of the Heroes, etc. I still haven't played any of those games (I travel a lot, and even when I'm home, those probably aren't the kinds of games my local game group would be into), but I've been reading up on them a lot, and suddenly it hit me that maybe Jesters could work as an adventure game. The first version of the game actually had individual jester characters with different attribute levels like Talent, Charisma, Energy (akin to RPG/adventure stats like Strength, Wisdom, etc.), and so I realized that maybe I was much closer to what I really wanted with that first initial idea; I just didn't go far enough with it to depict the kind of thing the theme described, and maybe putting it into an adventure game framework could help it come alive in the way the last version did not.
For example, instead of traveling to perform "quests" or to find monsters to defeat, the players travel to find gigs and have to, in essence, defeat the audience (as in the showbiz term: "You really slayed 'em!"). Different gigs/audiences would have different strengths or preferences, so you'd have to gather different types of "material" and certain special abilities or items (ad libbing, pyrotechnics, props, etc.) that would help. The material would be represented by cards that have different types and strengths; songs, magic tricks, jokes, juggling, acrobatics, etc., some of which in each type are considered better than others, but which may change depending on the venue (the way a raunchy country song would bomb at an opera house but do great at a roadside bar). Instead of finding "allies" to join your party, you recruit people as part of your "entourage"... publicist, manager, groupies, roadies, tech guy, etc. Instead of finding or stealing treasure or magic items, you gain fans and money and fame and "satisfaction" (a "VP" substitute, which is one of the details I liked from the recent version of the game).
Instead of the "big bad" to fight as the ending, there would be one big Woodstock-esque show that everyone performs for... how well you've developed your material and how many fans you have in the audience will determine how well that goes and who ultimately wins.
So you get the idea... I think it fits really well and would give a much better sense of depicting and enacting what the subject is, as opposed to some boring worker placement Euro-ish kind of thing... I guess what I'm thinking about at this point is how to make it so I'm not just lifting the adventure style so directly. In other words, I don't want this to be just Runebound with a showbiz theme. Then it almost seems like a parody. Yeah, this is meant to be light in feel and there will probably be parody elements involved, but I'd still like the game to be considered unique for what it is, even though it will likely borrow some adventure game mechanics. So in a way, I do want to match some of the expected adventure game things, because it seems that they'll work well for this, but I also want to add some unique elements that will fit the theme even more specifically. I'll also want to add more interaction and keep the game within 2 hours... knowing that lack of interaction and game length are two of the main criticisms of the adventure game genre. In terms of interaction, I can imagine some aspect of players meeting up and working together, like when different bands connect to do a combined show at a club. Inasmuch as they do that in the game, they can gain benefits from that, but there might also be the danger that if you are on a bill with another jester, and you follow them, you'd better be better than them or they'll end up "winning" the event and maybe grabbing some of your fans and fame. So there could be some combination of cooperation/competition in that sense... you might want to make certain alliences or share certain members of your entourage to help others at certain times. I also might like to have a fully cooperative version, where the final event is a charity thing, and everyone has to collectively get enough fans to that event in order to raise enough money for the cause.
With that in mind, I have some questions and would appreciate some F:ATtie feedback... First of all, I'm wondering if there are other games that have used the adventure game format but which have a totally different theme? I so, I'd like to check them out to see what's been done in that sense. I mean, can adventure games only have the orcs and wizards and dwarfs and monsters kind of theme?? If so, that seems kind of lame and repetitive. I suppose that's the theme that the board game buying market likes for that type of game, but I can picture a lot of different themes working well in that basic framework, so maybe it's just a case of people buying what the market is giving them, where the market could be more creative.
Also, I'm realizing that a lot of different showbiz genres could work for this idea, so maybe I shouldn't lock myself into the jesters thing... perhaps something else could work better? For example, punk bands or stand-up comedians or hair bands or philosophers or blues singers or folk singers or magicians, etc. Any thoughts about that? Anything that involves a showbiz act that tours around a region could work well in this context. I'm not sure about the idea of a "band" thing, though... In one sense, I really like the idea of having to recruit and assemble a full band (drummer, singer, guitarist, bassist, etc.) as if that is your band of warriors, and having to deal with some of the problems that can arise from that (drummer quits, singer is a flake, bassist doesn't quite fit in, guitarist has a drug problem, etc.), but I can also see that adding more complexity and length than I'm comfortable dealing with for now.
Anyway, I'd really appreciate any comments or suggestions as I go forward to work on this again.