Forthright: Coming 2017


  • Silver Seller and Special Offers! November 7, 2017

    Forthright Open Roleplay has moved up to a Best SILVER Seller, thanks to all our wonderful customers! Thank you!

    Two other announcements:

    • If you playtested with us and have not been contacted by us, please reach out to us by clicking here so we can provide you with a special discount coupon.
    • If you used a special discount coupon and did not also get a copy of the full-art PDF with your physical copy, please reach out to us by clicking here so we can send you the PDF.

    It’s been all quiet here on the western front because the week after Forthright went life, Sarah and I purchased a new home and moved into it. Anyone who’s moved knows what kind of chaos that leads to 🙂 And then, before we were finished, I went to Metatopia – and while the convention was wonderful, planes apparently don’t fly out of Newark when there are clouds in the sky and so I had to drive from New Jersey to North Carolina in the middle of the night. Fun? No. But I’m back, we’ve got a new business plan and exciting news coming soon!

Playing Forthright

  • Building Vehicles and Structures November 11, 2017

    In the Forthright Open Roleplay Google+ Community, Omari Brooks recently asked a very good question:

    When crafting/purchasing vehicles and structures outside of character creation; what is the expected calculation method for Complexity?

    This is a great question because it illustrates the difference between a Sanctuary and an extra vehicle or structure in addition to a Sanctuary. Sanctuaries have a built-in discount: their Luck and Defense are determined by what the player describes their Protagonist wants for a Sanctuary, per the rules on page 58 and 60 (special note: rules references are to the full edition of the game; Creative Commons readers will find the pages slightly earlier). Protagonists get one Sanctuary for free.

    Structures or Vehicles that aren’t Sanctuaries, though, have a basic cost. The Launch Boost (page 61) illustrates this basic cost:

    • For 1 Boost (6 Wealth), you get a single-occupant vehicle with 5 Luck and no special Defense. This vehicle moves at whatever speed is appropriate for the type of vehicle it is within the Gamescape.

    You can then add additional Luck (and, if desired, the equivalent occupant capacity) through the Increase Vehicle Luck Boost. Any additional subsystems can also be added through the application of more Boosts.

    Remember, though, per page 63: basic abilities that make the vehicle usable, such as Life Support and a Powerplant, are not counted out as additional Boosts. Forthright doesn’t try to model the cost of all subsystems, only of subsystems that provide storytelling advantages.

    Unfortunately, we’ve discovered we accidentally left a hole in the rules in that there’s no equivalent “starter” Boost for structures. For structures, we recommend purchasing a number of Increase Structure Luck Boosts equal to the size of the structure you want to create (page 58). Guides may choose to give the appropriate Defense Boost for free, though this isn’t necessary.

    We hope this provides some helpful clarification on playing Forthright!

Building Forthright

  • Table Experience October 7, 2017

    Forthright Open Roleplay focuses on providing players with a specific table experience rather than a specific narrative or emotional experience. The following descriptions are to provide perspective, and no judgments are being made on the superiority of one experience or another. Each game does their thing well, and there are plenty of people who are looking for exactly that. I do not believe there is “one game to rule them all,” but there are definitely games that scratch particular itches better than other games. Now, with the “calm down” disclaimer out of the way, I begin:

    In my experience, games like Fate CoreApocalypse World and Torchbearer provide specific narrative experiences:

    • In Fate Core, you play a game similar to the TV shows of Greg Berlanti (ArrowFlashSupergirl) or Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire SlayerAngel). Characters will generally progress toward their goals with varying linearity. In keeping with the Fate Point economy, they will sometimes make pig-headed decisions in keeping with the worst aspects of their personalities. Sometimes, they will be beaten back relentlessly. But in the end, they will annihilate their opposition and achieve their goals – often with a wildly incongruous amount of success, given the preceding story.
    • In Apocalypse World, you play within a rigidly-defined set of genre tropes (the playbooks) that interact with each other in very specific ways. While the story may wander all over the place, it won’t wander outside the clichés expressed by the playbooks the group is using. You will get mechanical resistance to transforming or expanding a character beyond their designed function, and the introduction of new concepts, themes, or genres basically means you’ve got to completely make up new rules or go buy another PbtA game that advertises the functionality you’re looking for.
    • Torchbearer has such a rigidly specific flow that I’m convinced you do not need actual humans involved for a game to play itself out. You start in town, you dungeon (yes, I’m using that as a verb), you get loot and you go back to town or try to continue dungeoning by paying deep attention to minutia. Rinse and repeat.

    Likewise, games like Bluebeard’s Bride and Grey Ranks provide specific emotional experiences:

    • Bluebeard’s Bride explores themes of horror, doubt, and loyalty through escalating tensions.
    • Grey Ranks explores the terror of being a child soldier in World War II.

    I’ve got less to say about these because, while a lot of folks talk about how games have given them feels, I haven’t experienced emotional manipulation from a game’s mechanics. So designing for it is of no interest to me.

    I’m more interested in designing for a functional experience, similar to Dungeons and Dragons and GURPS:

    • D&D provides a rules structure for resolving conflicts. Its genre is loosely-defined (fantasy … ish) and often loops in elements of horror (Ravenloft) and science fiction (Spelljammer). The major narrative element is modular: kill an enemy, get its loot, grow in power. This allows D&D to simulate all sorts of stories, so long as that modular narrative element is the crux of the story.
    • The bread and butter of GURPS is that it is intended to simulate anything the players can think of. Hundreds of splatbooks from Aliens to Mecha to Zombies provide detailed rules on every aspect of conflict resolution across multiple genres. The structure of the story, though, is left entirely to the players and you will receive little to no guidance on how a narrative looks in GURPS.

    I think there’s something missing when designing for pure function. D&D resolves this by providing (nowadays) long, over-wrought, partially on-rails adventures that try to be both game and novel (there’s a value judgment in there, I think). And GURPS doesn’t try to provide story, adventure, or anything … here are the rules, you’re on your own figuring out how to use them for storytelling.

    So the focus of Forthright has been to provide a clean table experience, merging functionality and general storytelling practice together with communication tips and a social contract.

    • The rules help players resolve pivotal points in the narrative – when they attempt an action that can change the course of events. This is distinctly different from the more “you do a thing, you roll a die” method of purely functional game design.
    • The design is focused on the Cosmetic Rule, enabling easy transition of genres without needing to redefine mechanics or numbers.
    • Rather than mechanically enforcing a story arc, the rules define the major elements of a story structure and provide instruction on moving players from one stage to another without explicitly putting them on rails or allowing them to meander aimlessly.
    • To promote emotional resonance, relationships with NPCs are tracked and can become closer or more distant. Additionally, characters gain benefits not from strictly adhering to their principles, but by making decisions about how they follow their principles – encouraging character growth and further emotional attachment.
    • The Game Charter allows players, during game setup, to announce early what they find unacceptable and what they prefer to experience. By setting these expectations up-front, players do not suffer the shock of surprise if they tread into unpleasant territory.

    The experience of running Forthright should be smooth and easy, leading to more satisfying play. We’ve had playtesters tell us that playing Forthright has changed the way they run other games, too, as they adopt the best-practices laid out in Forthright to improve the experiences of their other tables.

    As always, we welcome questions and comments!

Con Reports

  • Metatopia 2017 November 9, 2017

    Hello and welcome! It’s been a few weeks since my last non-announcement post because we’ve been terrifically busy. Not only is Forthright Open Roleplay now available (and a silver seller!), but Sarah and I moved to a new house (and corporate office, I suppose) and I headed to New Jersey for the one-of-a-kind Metatopia. I didn’t bring anything of my own, because my goal this time was to give back to the community that made Forthright possible by playtesting as many other games as I could.

    It’s taken me a while to sit down and write this because, alas, my flight back to RDU from Newark was cancelled due to clouds. Like, apparently, seriously terrifying clouds that shut down almost all traffic out of Newark this past Sunday night. So I had to cancel my flight and drive home…an 8-hour drive…starting at 8pm. I am not a young man anymore, that was hard.

    Anyway, my brain seems to be fully-functioning again, so let’s talk Metatopia!


    Metatopia is in a big way a networking convention, and this year I think I met and had wonderful conversations with more people than the previous two times I’d been to Metatopia. I think that’s mostly on me, as my previous visits were with Sarah and Ray and if I’ve got somebody I know I tend not to branch out to meet people I don’t. But I was also previously burdened with a severe case of impostor syndrome, like I didn’t really deserve to be there, and that anything I had to say was pointless and dumb compared to the gaming greats around me. Combined with a compulsion to stay entirely focused on the then-unfinished Forthright, I don’t think I was in a mind space to fully appreciate what Metatopia had to offer in this regard.

    This time, I arrived with confidence – we had developed Forthright and gotten it to publication, and people in general liked it. That pushed impostor syndrome right out of my head – I had done something. And I got to hang out with a lot of great people and really enjoy myself as a result – and I thought about listing them all here, but that feels strangely like name-dropping oh look who got to hang out with. So…next!


    I only attended two panels this year, one of which I was on. From Idea to Product: Your First Game was a panel I was on with John Adamus and Laura Simpson. It was a really interesting experience to share advice with a room full of people, and hopefully the mistakes we’ve made will help some of those fine folks avoid making the same ones. And I got to meet Laura Simpson, who developed Companion’s Tale, a game I’d not heard of but am now dying to play!

    Generic But Indie was a panel I attended at the urging of Jason Pitre and boy, am I glad I did! This panel had Jason, Brennan Taylor, and Hannah Shaffer talking about the difficulties of creating, marketing and sustaining a generic product with supplements. I’m really glad I went to this panel, because that was very much the original business plan for Room 209 Gaming: create Forthright, then do a bunch of game-setting products. We wanted to avoid the pushback Fantasy Flight experienced by repackaging the same rules over and over for Star Wars.

    But, as it turns out, indie games tend not to suffer that pushback because they’re small enough that they offer additional growth opportunities rather than a burden. So that’s led to a shift in how we’ll be developing Gamescape products in the future.


    The last time I attended Metatopia (2015), the con had grown to a point where there was friction between developers and players. Designers were expecting more robust feedback than they were getting, while players were expecting a more traditional con experience. I’m happy to say that this year, that did not seem to be the case – Double Exposure printed up packets for all the game tables that explained the roles and responsibilities of the devs and the players, and provided handouts with some great tools for structured feedback. I was pretty impressed.

    And I got to play some really interesting games. “Take two stats and add numbers into a single die pool to roll” was a favorite mechanic this year, at least at the tables I gamed at. Some of the highlights (in alphabetical order):

    • BLOCKBUSTER! was the last game I got to play, from Duffy Austin, and it was an absolute blast. You take on the roles of egomaniacal actors who are swinging a directionless movie production back and forth to give themselves spotlight. It only needed a couple of tweaks, and I can’t wait to play this game again.
    • Harnessed by Ian Jarrard is ostensibly a sci-fi game where players powers stolen from an ancient cosmic evil to fight that same evil when it returns. In the state it was when I played it, it was still a fairly traditional game, with lots of things that it didn’t need because they weren’t what it was about. But Ian was very receptive to feedback, and this is the one game I can say I wrote that a mechanic was too damn fun, so why wasn’t the whole game revolving around that? Fortunately, Ian is going to be reworking it more into “Doctor Strange in Space,” which is kind of what it was, and I’m looking forward to the next iteration of the game.
    • ISSUES! The Comic Book Continuity Building Game, from 9th Level Games, was a surprise for me because, while it was kind of a roleplaying game, it was also kind of a storytelling card game. The players got to take on different roles in a comic book company, building comics together based on card prompts. I think this is going to be a great party game when it’s done.
    • Pasion de las Pasiones, from Stop, Hack and Roll, was not a playtest I participated in. But damn do I wish I had! This was in a lot of ways the star of the con – everyone I encountered who played it was talking about it, talking about it passionately, and talking about it positively. In it, you play both the characters in a telenovela and the family at home watching the show. It is designed to be raucous and hilarious, and the volume from the playtesting tables certainly attested that it’s doing its job!
    • Project Violacea from Wrong Brothers Gaming (I love that name) is an interesting one. It’s marketed as a biopunk dystopic future about underrepresented demographics fighting against the controlling elites. I was fairly nervous about the quality of feedback I could give on this one, but overall the playtest turned out pretty well. It uses an interesting d100 mechanic with Fate-like aspects. This was an alpha test, but the mechanics are sound and I’m looking forward to seeing how they approach the world.
    • Retrievers, from Saddle Shaped Games, had a very interesting tension mechanic that built and released tension over the course of a heist-style game. I’m interested to see where James Dagg goes with it.
    • Save The Universe by Don Bisdorf is a PbtA-style game where the players are Guardians of the Galaxy-style heroes who are facing off against a galactic menace. This game was very polished and tremendous fun, but what really stood out for me was the rearranged die mechanic. Rather than 2d6+Bonus, higher better, Don has rearranged the difficulty curve, adding more entropy by making the face of the die matter based on your character’s strengths and what you’re attempting to do. Very impressive, I’m looking forward to playing more.
    • Space Ice Hauler Heartbreak, from James Malloy, is about two lovers – the Lighthouse who stays behind and the Hauler who heads into space – changed by their long-distance relationship and the ravages of time dilation. While emotion-games aren’t usually a thing I go for, the potential in this game is tremendous. This was another alpha test, and even in this rough state I could see how beautiful it could be when it’s finished. Rob Donoghue as my Lighthouse telling me I need to stay away from caramel apple empanadas because the doctor says so was a highlight of the convention 🙂

    Overall, Metatopia 2017 was another successful convention from Double Exposure and a great opportunity to play some great new games in their infancy. I hope I was helpful! And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go get a caramel apple empanada XD

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