One of my favorite website is the Big Picture. It’s run by the Boston Globe and features photojournalistic series on a range of topics. One of the best parts about the blog is its dedication to large-scale photography. Rather than the small snapshots you see accompanying most newspaper articles online, the Big Pictures goes full-screen large. I love it.
And so you can imagine my excitement when I found one of their most recent entries on Martian landscapes. Do not be surprised if some of these photos make it into the print edition of Mars Colony. Because the images were produced by NASA, they are all in the public domain. If you are interested in Martian photography, I also recommend browsing the image archives at NASA’s website.
As a preview of some of the advise and suggestions I’ll be releasing for Hero’s Banner, I thought I’d post the major rules changes.
Change 1. No player is allowed to make less than three passion checks until his character’s passion score reaches at least 50 points. As a result, no player may initially take less than the 30-point bonus when re-rolling a failed conflict check. This change serves to speed up play, but still allows for narrative control when it most matters: during endgame.
Change 2. Players are no longer required to bring in one of their connections when making less than three passion checks. In play, connections inevitably show up. Either the GM frames a connection into a scene directly, or the players include them naturally. Otherwise forcing a player to integrate his connection into a scene after the fact is a bit artificial.
Under the standard rules, breakdowns occur whenever a player rolls doubles on a passion check. The player then immediately stops making passion checks. So if the player was supposed to make three passion checks and rolls doubles on the first, then he would ignore passion checks two and three. In play, this rule unnecessarily slowed the pace of the game.
Change 3. A breakdown still occurs on a roll of doubles, but the player should finish making the full series of passion checks before narrating the breakdown.
Change 5. Players are no longer required to use the chart described on page 72 when narrating their epilogues. Instead, the narrating player should answer the following questions during endgame:
When answering the questions, the players should take into consideration the number of connections he has under the “winning” influence, as well as the people he had to thrust aside to accomplish his goals.
The original chart sometimes imposed artificial restrictions. Endgame is more meaningful when the players address open-ended questions that get at the same meaning.
I’ve been toying with a second edition to Hero’s Banner for some time now. However, I’ve never been able to justify the work it would take to revise an entire book – a book that generally stands up just fine in my opinion. Would I make some changes to it if I was starting from scratch? Yes. But the game is three years old now, and I am a big believer that, once released, art should stand on its own. (I’m looking at you George Lucas.)
So where does that leave things? Well, within the next day or two, I will be putting the final touches on a short document that updates Hero’s Banner as I play it now. This document will be free to everyone. What’s more, because it will be a short web release, I will be able to update it from here on out forever. I encourage everyone who is interested in Hero’s Banner to give the new guide a quick read-through and perhaps give the game another chance.
The Mars Colony Ashcan Edition debuted at Gen Con ‘09. In my opinion, it was a success! I put together 25 hand-made copies. The covers were “martian red,” adorned with nothing but white embossed lettering. The contrast made it stand out, and I sold 18 copies at the Forge Booth. An early playtest report generated enough buzz to move all but two of the remaining copies.
I’m quite pleased, and hope that it leads to some solid feedback. So far so good.