Five Questions With Michtim Game Designer Georg Mir

michtim-coverWe recently reviewed Michtim: Fluffy Adventures by game designer and creator, Georg Mir. Michtim is an indie tabletop roleplaying game that has the fairly unique attribute of being created nearly entirely by one person. As we stated in our review of Michtim, Georg developed the setting idea, game design, layout, and artwork for the game. So we asked Georg a little bit about the game itself and how it came to be.

1) What is Michtim?
Michtim is an RPG that was greatly inspired by 80s and 90s Cartoon shows (Smurfs and Ewoks) as well as my favorite computer adventure games at that time: Legend of Zelda (Link’s Awakening) and Final Fantasy (Legends II) both for Gameboy. Back then I didn’t know what an RPG was, but I created my first pen & paper dice games based on Final Fantasy’s weapon tables that came with the Gameboy cartridge!

Michtim is the kind of game where you become an intelligent but tiny hamster-like creature, fighting against the depredations of human culture. Humans always want to expand; want to earn more; and someone has got to pay for this. Nature suffers because of humans, and Michtims cannot tolerate this any longer. On the other hand, Michtims are not a violent species, so actually killing someone is out of the question. Michtims strive to find a balance between Civilization (Progress), Nature (Conservancy) and Social Responsibility (Charity).

The game is also quite useful for getting new players into the world of RPGs. Especially kids seem to love it. But the game isn’t a pure kids game. It offers rich mechanics, so it is also tactically interesting for grown-ups. Anyway! Turnaya (Michtim’s setting) is also a fantastic dream world that I like to escape to when life gets tough. It is supposed to be a safe place. Something worth protecting.

2) How is Michtim different from other tabletop roleplaying games?
Many design decisions can be found in other games too, so I could not say “Michtim has this unique idea!”, but instead it has a good combination of things that fit together. Like one thing I took away from Zelda was that having a character level was neither required nor especially helpful in keeping the game fun at all instances. Michtims do get better at stuff, but they do not have character levels and they also do not gain attribute points. I saw the scaling problems of WoW before they decided to crunch the numbers again… that just wouldn’t work for me. You know, a casual monster at level 90 could beat a boss monster at level 60 (so to speak). That’s just not very impressive for me. I want fights that are fun to crack; not because of the mathematical odds of upping the ante, but because there is some complexity and tactic to figure out.

michtim-adventurerThe biggest change from regular TRPGs is the use of Emotions instead of classical attributes. Emotions define the personality of the character quite well, but they also allow me to include a Mood system that actually offers handles to buff or debuff your actions. So when you’re angry you can hit harder, but healing a friend suddenly becomes more difficult because your mind is focused on violence. Using Emotions also has the benefit of allowing a fluid combination of Callings (=Classes) and stats. In Dungeons & Dragons (which I absolutely love, mind you) the Wizard needs Intelligence to be useful. That’s predefined. Strength is usually a dump stat. In Michtim it’s nothing like that. You can play a Sorcerer with high Anger, or Love, or Grief… or whatever. It always makes sense. I designed Callings to have useful combinations with every Emotion, and that’s something I’m very proud of, because it allows a lot of character types.

Michtim is also different in the idea that it offers a decidedly simple interface. I want players and GMs to co-create content, so I show people how the game works and what to do to make up their own stuff. Also the setting in the core book is very slim and allows players to fill in their own ideas. Very much like each game of Apocalypse World is defined by the players. That’s a design motto I really like. I played DSA (Das Schwarze Auge = The Dark Eye) and it really shocked me that I was supposed to read tons of setting material. I don’t have time for that… but instead, I have my own ideas. Why not use them? That’s also true for kids. They should make up their own world, because you know, they like to watch cartoons and read comics, and maybe they want to bring something over from those media as well? Why should we prohibit that? I don’t like that sort of rigidity.

3) What inspired you to create Michtim?
I met my boyfriend in 2008 and we came up with Michtim when I was on a two-week study field trip in Istanbul (Interaction Design Summer School). We constantly evolved the setting and created characters and ideas. I also tried to build different other games for the Michtim IP, like a card game about bocicne (Michtim sweets). When I started my master program Media & Interaction Design at FH Joanneum in Graz, I decided that Michtim would be my master thesis. I immediately started to work on the game and had plans to create a digital game as well; especially since I had a Game Development course as well. It finally came to fruition when I asked my professor to support my thesis, and then I had the luck to write Michtim under a study grant! I really look back at the time with Nostalgia, because I was able to freely work on my projects without worrying too much about regular work.

illu_machinistThe other inspirations were already mentioned above. From the game perspective I had Zelda and FF. Zelda taught me about the value of limitations (only being able to equip two tools). Final Fantasy taught me about a simple system that leads to complexity by combination. The Ewoks have quite a few similarities with Michtims, but they are way bigger and are very primitive. Michtim on the other hand, even have access to cyber technology and robotics. But there was always a lesson in cartoon shows back then; and that’s something that also inspired me. Today I’d deemphasize that point though, as I came to recognize that it forces people into behavior too much.

4) What future support (expansions, modules, etc.) for Michtim can players expect?
I worked on several new aspects for the game; some of which are freely available on www.michtim.com! If you can read German there’s also a short story on the Kindle store called Michtim: Erwachen (Awakening). It follows a small family of youngsters (Fauchschule kids) on their first adventure. For the RPG I want to write a campaign. The first step would be to write a single sandbox module that adds new setting content, characters, creatures and new mechanics. The campaign will feature several modules that are supposed to be similar to the way Zelda handles the search for Medals/Spirits. The heroes have to find six magical gems to save Turnaya from losing its protective Veil.

The first module will probably be a haunted mansion in the Moor, home of the Ghost Amethyst. Each module will have a temple/dungeon as well as a casual area with new characters and offer new Callings, Gear or other fiddly bits to play around with. That’s my project, but I am currently in ideation phase and development still takes a lot of time before I’m ready to publish it.

5) Why should people buy Michtim?
If you love cute characters, sleek mechanics to play around with or if you have kids you’d like to take on adventures… I think the game will offer quite some fun! The game is easy to pick up, so prep time usually isn’t that much of an issue either.

About Samuel Van Der Wall

Sam has been roleplaying since he first encountered Battletech 1st Edition. It was initially the tactical play that drew him in, but eventually he expanded into the roleplaying game portion and it was a done deal from there. His favorite game is Shadowrun, but he’s also a huge fan of Dungeons & Dragons, Dungeon World, Numenera, Star Wars, Warhammer, and many other roleplaying games. He’s a huge fan of Fantasy Flight Games and numerous other gaming companies and publishers. He prefers playing over game mastering. He likes creating one character, building on that character, integrating it into the story, and seeing how it develops over a campaign. He’s not afraid of character death because it’s often memorable and builds the story! If he had a specialty, it would be that he’s really into helping other players draw out storylines in their own characters and further their own goals. He’s never had the privilege of attending a gaming related convention, but hopes to attend two next year.

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