Working on Cornerstone from a new angle

So I’ve been working on Cornerstone for a couple of months now, and while initially the words flew from my mind onto the pages, I’ve begun to stumble a bit. Part of the problem is that I’ve never written a universal or generic system before – it seemed difficult to come up with answers to every possible scenario or game genre the players would want to make, even totally gonzo or incomprehensible ones.

The key to me was coming up with a very solid foundation, and building off of that (the core mechanic). That helped tremendously, and got the manuscript to where it is today, sitting at about 40k words (around 180 pages.)

That being said, it doesn’t feel complete enough or easy to grasp enough for my liking. When I get stumped, I start working on something else. And for me with Cornerstone, that was designing a focused game using Cornerstone’s engine.

There are two that I’m working on currently, both of which I think are really fun and interesting concepts:

Frame is focused around hyper competent mercenaries in the mid 21st century, augmented by their Frame battle chassis exosuit. The game heavily pulls from some in the Ghost Recon and Call of Duty series, but is all about fast-paced, crazy intense combat with plenty of gear for the gun nuts out there (including me.)

Frame’s meat and potatoes – all of the actual rules and suggestions for how to apply them – are written. It’s currently about 15k words or 60 pages.

Canopy is a little more nebulous at this point, and isn’t more than a collection of my thoughts and concepts on some digital scratch paper. However, the setting and what I hope to do with the game is enormously more intriguing to me than Frame, or indeed any of the other Cornerstone games I’ve conceptualized.

Canopy takes place on an alien world that is dominated by a gargantuan forest. The trees are comparable to Earth’s mountains, stretching thousands of feet high into the air with branches miles wide. The characters’ society has to live in this titanic canopy, fending off against predators, starvation, and constantly guiding their clan to new and safer boughs.

For Canopy I really wanted to focus on a nonviolent concept – one that emphasized exploration, creating a sense of wonder, and cooperation between the different characters in the party to resolve conflicts peacefully. Since the protagonists and their kin would be toward the bottom of the food chain in this world, there would be many threats that they’d simply have to avoid rather than try to fight.

Both of these game concepts have helped me solidify my ideas on how to implement Cornerstone as a viable game unto itself – but I’m seriously considering pursuing one or both of them prior to Cornerstone’s full release. Other systems have had success in this same vein – Fate had several iterations before the release of Fate Core, and the newly announced Cypher System was first published under Numenera and The Strange.

Basically, at this point, I’m not sure. I have a tendency to just keep writing and working on games even when I don’t plan to release them or know what I want to do with them – but I’m too excited about Cornerstone to let it backburner forever.

I’ll update any progress, as usual. Stay tuned.