Interview with Brian Engard designer of the storytelling game Becoming: A Game of Heroism and Sacrifice
How did the idea for Becoming come about? Did you feel that the idea of heroic sacrifice was missing in most other games?
Becoming’s inception didn’t have anything to do with things missing from other games. Most of my designs come from a “what if” idea. In this case, I was listening to a podcast (Actual People, Actual Play, I think) and I thought “What if I made a game with three GMs and one player?” That’s where the idea started, and it grew from there.
During development did you have any ideas for Becoming that you weren’t able to make work or is it basically how you envisioned it?
Sure, plenty. The dice mechanic changed a few times, as did the method for determining the winner of the game. When I first started playtesting, the game was a lot “gamier”. That is, people tended to spend more time thinking about the mechanics and the math than about the story and their characters. By all accounts, the mechanics and math were fun and compelling; it wasn’t the experience I wanted though, so I went back to the drawing board. I had to do this a couple of times before I came up with a system that did what I wanted it to do. But hey, that’s game design for you.
What do you think makes Becoming awesome?
It’s a fun way to tell interesting stories. It’s got some cool mechanical hooks that help maintain tension throughout the game. It forces you to make hard choices. The bargaining mechanic is hella fun to watch and to participate in. You can play a full game in about four hours. There’s all kinds of ways to hack the game and turn it into something else. Take your pick!
Can you share something amazing you’ve seen happen during a game of Becoming?
At one point, one of the Fates (Doubt, I think) was offering a particularly tempting and hard bargain to the Hero. He got so into it that he leaned in and started whispering in the Hero’s ear, smiling to himself and holding the dice he was offering up in front of him, just out of the Hero’s reach. It was such a striking scene that I told one of the other players to take a picture so my artist could use it as an art reference for the game. That picture’s in the game now, which I’m really happy about.
Anything else you’d like to share?
This game was a group effort. I wrote the game, but it wouldn’t be what it is without the playtesters, without my editor and idea sounding-board John Adamus, without my wife’s input on my many rambling musings, without the fantastic art of Chris Barley, without Will Hindmarch and Daniel Solis, who I know will do excellent work on fiction writing and layout. It’s a labor of love, and I can’t wait to see it in print. I’d appreciate it if everyone checked out the Kickstarter; you can back it for $1 and read the rules!