Alumni Report: The Trouble with Rose

As part of the build-up to the launch of Game Chef 2012, we’re checking in with a number of recent Game Chef “alumni” to see what their post-contest experience has been like and how their games have continued to develop. Today we spotlight Todd Zircher and his Game Chef 2011 entry, The Trouble with Rose.

Tell us about your game.

The Trouble with Rose is a character-driven storytelling parlor game. Players use dominoes and character traits to help frame a scene and act it out. Play goes around the table until all the dominoes are used and the character’s secret agendas are revealed. The player with the highest score wins narrative control of the epilogue.

What state was your game in at the end of Game Chef, and where is it now?

The game was complete, but the contest limits didn’t leave a lot of room for gameplay examples. The original rules pretty much required you to do some world-building on the fly every time. I’ve since gone back in to reorganize the layout, expand the play examples, and add more info and tips in the sidebars. One design concept that didn’t fall into place until after the contest is the use of playsets. Playsets shifted the game from pure world-building to something that has a more Fiasco-esque feel. It also made it more convention friendly.

What have you learned over the course of the game’s development?

This is my first RPG so I don’t have a good baseline to compare against. But, I loved the challenge of the theme, ingredients, and getting them to all work in the limited scope of a few thousand words. Compared to the hundred-page number-crunchy wargames that I have written in the past, The Trouble with Rose is about as crunch-free as it gets. Another side effect was that I ended up doing a fair amount of research on Shakespeare and fell in love with the quirky Manga Shakespeare series. I probably read a dozen of them during and after the contest.

What are your ultimate goals for the game and how close are you to meeting those?

The ultimate goal was always to make something fun that people could plunk down and run as a one-shot or filler game. I like to think that I met those goals. But something happened along the way: players started creating their own playsets and began playing the game with their friends and even complete strangers at conventions. This motivated me to a second set of goals: to polish up the game, add more playsets, and submit the game to the ENnies and Indie RPG Awards.

What advice would you give to other Game Chef alumns who are thinking about developing their game further?

There’s always room to polish your games and take them to the next level. The constraints of Game Chef narrows your focus and allows you to concentrate on the core mechanics. The review phase is an invaluable mid-course correction and feedback tool; it’s an open invitation to continue work on your game.

What would you tell folks thinking about participating in Game Chef for the first or second time?

Just do it! (*grin*) Game Chef is partially a puzzle game and social experiment. It’s a great way to encounter new game ideas, check out great indie gaming communities like Story Games and 1KM1KT, and flex your own game design muscles.

More information on The Trouble with Rose is available online here.

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