Monday, August 29, 2005


Carry Dev 2

Action scenes end up giving the winning party a pool of points. Instead of having those all have to go to whittling down non-played-characters, the winning party can put some of them in the FUBAR pool (until I think of a better term). The FUBAR pool is in the middle of the table, and in any non-action scene anyone can roll one dice out of it to create a conflict that has negative stakes for a character, or to apply action-pool-like fallout to a non-played character. So, to have a guy taken out by a lone sniper shot (the latter), or have a character get chewed out by the sergeant for something he didnt do (the former), stuff like that.

Now, it costs more fallout points (I think I'm gonna call them that for now) for SMALLER dice in the FUBAR pool - so a d12 costs 1 point, a d10 costs 2, etc. Remember, these can only be used to screw over other characters in some way. There needs to be some penalty associated with not spending FUBAR dice. Maybe they roll over into the next Action scene on the GMs side - so, like, if theres an unspent d12 and d10 in the FUBAR pool, and its an Action scene, the GM gets d12+d10+one dice if they choose+dice given by players.

Ooh. I actually really like that idea. It also helps with the tendency I noticed for players to avoid giving the GM dice in Action scenes.

While I was watching Platoon I had an idea for something you could spend Burdens for in play, but now I forget. I hope I remember it.

Sunday, August 28, 2005


Carry Dev I

So I reread Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried today. Goddamn but that is one awesome, powerful book. I wanted to go back to my inspirational material for Carry and see if I can inform myself on how I want the game to be played. Oh shit, do I still have Platoon, or did I leave it back sec...

Ok, I do. Whew. Gotta rewatch it tonight.

Anyway. So, what do the things that they carry, in O'Briens book, mean? How do they contribute to the narrative? Well, they provide both metaphors and plot points, right - I mean, some guys carry lots of physical stuff, some carry lots of emotional stuff, all carry the war and Vietnam itself. Some of the stories revolve around the carried (Kiowa's moccasins, O'Briens pain and humiliation and anger at the new medic). Some don't.

All are true, and not true. Which I think is a pretty accurate thing to say about role playing itself, actually - but thats another post.

So, what does carrying something mean? It means that it's something that can't or won't be put down. It's something important. It's not really a motivation, usually, but it's something that:
Sometimes they are symbols (again, the moccasins), sometimes physical objects, sometimes emotions. Sometimes all of these.

What does this mean in the context of the game? God. I'm in one of those places where a bunch of ideas are mashing together, and I'm having a lot of trouble getting any of them out. Lets try one at a time.
About the end - hrm. I think there's definitely something to the idea that there should be more open narration at the end, about what ends up happening to these soldiers. I'm thinking about something like this (again inspired by my rereading of O'Brien, and also Polaris):

Everyone has to tell a story about one of the soldiers they got a Burden from. During this story, anyone can spend a Burden to say "But thats not how it happened. It happened like this." and re-tell the story. Someone can spend a Burden to say "Thats not how it happened either. But anything else would be a lie.", which ends that story. Once everyones told a story about a non-played character, then they each tell a story starting with "When people ask me ______, I can truthfully say yes. And I can truthfully say no." Now, others can spend Burdens to make the narrator include them in the story (including the GM, in some fashion). Again, everyone gets one of these, maybe with the die roll (from the original Endgame mechanics) determining turn order.

So thats an idea.

Thoughts and comments welcome.

Saturday, August 27, 2005


A Dream

So I've officially put the final nail in the geek coffin - I had a dream about roleplaying last night. Like, a dream where, in the dream, I was roleplaying. It was pretty awesome.

Anyway, the details aren't too important, and kinda personal, but there was a moment in the dream where I was thinking "dude, this is totally going to go into an Actual Play post". Now, it wasn't actual play, as it wasn't actual, but I still think its interesting.

Okay, getting to the point now. At one point another player turned to me and said something along the lines of:

"So, you've been describing your character as being an uncertain person for the whole game, but anytime we actually do something, he's totally cool and collected and always knows what to do. Which I've been fine with, until the last scene. Now, I really think he should have been uncertain in that conflict."

To which I replied:

"Well, thats what Conflict Resolution is for. If we're both fine with whats going on, we can just run with it. When something happens that you think isn't cool, but I'm good with it, well then thats when the mechanics come into play."

It's interesting to me on a couple of levels. First, about the whole character-ownership thing ("I thought you're character should have done X." "Well, then reach for them dice!"). Second, thats a pretty good distillation of how I see conflict resolution. Third, I had just read Polaris and the Forge thread about that GenCon DitV game thats everyones talkin' about, and I think those both had a lot to do with it.

I wonder if there's some system goodness to squeeze out of that dream. That would be pretty cool.

Friday, August 26, 2005


Timestream Offically Released!

Timestream is now officially on sale. Click on the hamster to the left to go to my website, where you can buy the PDF via Paypal. There's the Standard Edition, which is $12.00 and full color, and the Basic Edition, which is $8.00 and grayscale. You can get both when you buy the Standard Edition, if you want.

Ah hell, all the details are on the website, so check it out already!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


Timestream Cover 2

New back and front cover. Lightened the
subtitle, put the byline in the same font,
opaqued the hamster - all good changes, I
think. Thanks Shreyas!

Also put the bottom strip in a complementing off-white, which I think looks good. Logo and back copy may still change.

Saturday, August 20, 2005



Okay. So I have the cover painting for Timestream (and its awesome). Unfortunately, I am embarking on a cross-country trip in just a few hours, so I will be unable to scan it and get it cover-ready until Wednesday, at the earliest. Other than that, the game is done and ready to go.

So. Barring some unforseen circumstance, Timestream will be offically released on Friday, August 27th.


Thursday, August 18, 2005


The Adventure! Is Over

Tonight was our last session of Adventure!, as I'm heading back out to school on Saturday. Overall, it was pretty awesome - the last couple scenes really came together, and the whole game has been fun. We threw some PTA-inspired feedback rules into the mix, which worked out OK.

The one thing I want to mention was a moment that was basically pure Exploration. A couple of sessions ago one of the guys bought a pretty potent Gadget with his advancement currency, asking for a cool-ass gun with special kinds of ammo, that he would get somehow in the next session or so of play. It hadn't been brought into play yet, so I tossed it in before the climatic scene. During said scene, he declared that he threw a random round into the chamber and fired. I asked for ideas on cool ammo types, and they all tossed out ideas, some serious (acidy fire!) and some not (a can of paper snakes!). I took all the suggestions, gave them numbers, and had him roll a dice to see what round it was.

It was a really cool moment, for a lot of reasons. As I mentioned, it was pure Exploration - look at all this cool stuff that could happen! No matter what, it's going to get incorporated, and be advantageous for the characters - but there was real tension and excitement about what it was going to be. He rolls...a 2! Groan from him, a cheer from the player who suggested it - it was the bang flag on a stick! I narrated how a stick comes out of the barrel and unfurls a little flag that says "bang" - and then shoots out of the barrel like a firework with a loud-ass bang, and explodes on the chest of his opponent (he rolled to hit before seeing what ammo it was). Cool! Then he made a crappy damage roll, and it was kinda anti-climactic (damn storyteller system), but it was a nifty moment all around.

It was that same kind of feeling from when we would play D&D (2nd ed), and they'd kill the monster, and then I'd roll on all the treasure tables with the players looking on, all of us excited to see what would come up - gems? gold? a magic item? Just....exploring the available options, knowing that at worst you'd get something useless, at best something awesome, and if you don't get something good...well, its a random roll, who cares?

That, in my mind, is Sim.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


Design Journal: The Imp Of The Perverse

My current kicking-around-in-the-back-of-my-head game is tentatively titled The Imp Of The Perverse. It's based on the work of Edgar Allen Poe, as well as the 'Gothic Earth' of the TSR title The Masque Of The Red Death. I'm currentely rereading my collections of his short stories and poems, to figure out what elements I want to take from the text for the game. This post is basically retrievable brain-dump - comments are welcome, but not expected.

Character Creation

You have a sheet of paper. On one side of it is a letter with blanks, like a Mad Lib. Something along the lines of

"Dearest ___,
It is with much sorrow that I must inform you _______. Unfortunately, ______. However, I do hold out hope that ________.

But enough of my empty prattle. Oh, if I could only _______! I must admit to you, my ______, that I have been mightily struggling for these last _______. I must rely on this excuse, and this alone, to explain my ________. I have seen Drs.--- and --- [not blanks, actually little dashes - genre appropriate], and they are in complete accordance that my malady has no natural cause. I am led to beleive, by my old associate __________, that it is not an unknown complication. My next communication may not be for quite some time, as I fear that I must address this with all haste. If I continue to suffer like I have, I must surely succumb to that madness that some phrenologists would term _______.

With all my love,

On the other side is the character sheet proper.

Now, thats pretty damn rough, but it gives an idea. Anyway, the blanks would correspond to mechanics stuff - people you care about, some background info, attributes and abilities of some kind, and your Perversity.

Most of Poe's stories entail a man struggling against some kind of perverse compulsion, or some mental instability - the actual Imp of the Perverse showcases a man compelled to admit his perfect crime, The Telltale Heart is pretty much the same. In some cases they overcome their fear or problem, like the man who feared he would be buried alive, but snaps out of it once he comes dangerously close and goes on to live a fine life. Etc.


So, play is about the characters addressing their Perversitys and attempting to overcome them. Success and failure should be equally possible. In most cases, the character has to oversome a physical, external manifestation of their Perversity (like in Ms. In A Bottle). Here's where we link with "traditional" roleplay & Masque of the Red Death. You cannot overcome your perversity until you confront the creatures, challenges and manifestations that exist, out there in the real world, and often in exotic and dangerous locales.

So play concerns following the characters as they travel the world, confronting monsters and danger in an effort to come to terms with their own internal demons.

I'm thinking card-based play would be genre-appropriate, but I've given little thought to actual mechanics thus far.


Problem: I want a "party" kind of game, but am having trouble seeing how that works within the literary framework. The parallel storyline style would work, but I don't know how comfortable I am with that. So thats a problem. One thing I might steal is the Shadow from Wraith, and have each player be the actual Imp for a character not their own.

I want a pretty traditional GM/non-GM power split, but with mechanical guidelines for GM input.

I don't know if I want magic or not. It's not really in the literature, but the fantastic is, so...

I do want to write the entire book in the style of Poe (hehe, not ambitious at all), without breaking for mechanics explanation. Something like a narrator describing how to play, but in the language of the time...

"Let us take into consideration the personae of a Frenchman, Jaques deOiseau. The initial sketch we hold in our imagination is that of a brusque man, aquitted well with wide shoulders and a burly build, not unaccustomed to hard labor....But what for when poor Jaques wishes to undertake an adventure for which he is unsuited? Well, then he who holds Jaques in his imagination may wish to take advantage of the very strength of Jacques Imp of the Perverse, translating the power of that all-to-real entity into fuel for the fires of Jaques passion. He may draw an extra card..." etc

Which may suck. But may be cool.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


What It Is We Do, 2

This is following this post.

Okay, so last time we established this:

When we Roleplay, we engage in a process of collaborative creation without the intent to perform to an audience that has no hand in the creative process.

Now. Let's emphasize that the performance has only the performers as the audience - the group that roleplays is a group of audience-participants (lets say APs, for short). Thus, roleplay is meant to entertain both the players as creators AND as audience members.

Back up. We're going to be working on the baseline of roleplaying for the purpose of entertainment, for the time being. Okay, moving on.

So. Is being entertained as a creator of entertainment different from being entertained as an audience member? I think so. I'm a technical theatre person and a (very) amateur musician, and in both cases I am most entertained and fulfilled by my creations when they demonstrate technical proficiency, carry a deeper meaning than the obvious, or both. As an audience member, I can be entertained by something that doesn't show much of either, as well as something that does. (Geh, what a mess of language, but I think it makes sense).

So, roleplay, and now I think we're getting to something thats a little less obvious and little more important, needs to entertain and fulfill the APs both as A's and as P's. For me (and here I'm going from general to specific comments, for the time being) roleplay needs to engage me on the technical or thematic level, as well as the general "doing cool/meaningful/fantastic stuff" level. It needs to engage me as a creator, not just a viewer - but it also has to engage me as a viewer, or I might as well go write a story.

Now, I think its absolutely true that a whole damn lot of roleplay sees the players being either A's or P's, engaging either as creators or as audience, often with the GM being the creator and the other players being the audience (though not always). And I think this a trend that a whole damn lot of indie games are trying to buck - trying to explicity or implicity encourage or require engagement as both creator and audience member. And, my personal opinion is that roleplay that doesn't engage the group on both levels isn't very good, or true, roleplay.

Finally, this dual engagement is recursive. When you really get a kick of out of a contribution you make to the game, and then someone else totally riffs off it, and you are so stoked at what they just did - well, thats awesome roleplay, right there. Creation and view of input both feed off of each other, in a (hopefully) positive feedback loop.

Our expanded definition:
When we Roleplay, we engage in a process of collaborative creation as audience-participants. This process engages audience-participants both as creators of entertainment as as viewers of it. The recursive dynamic between the creation and appreciation of input to the game is key.

Next time: we finally look at the relationship between exploration and creation of material (just a short jump on that one), and deal with some holes in the current definition.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


Reading Music/Reading Text

A metaphor: roleplaying text is like sheet music. Someone who has no training in it whatsoever cannot comprehend what the end product is supposed to be like just from looking at the pages. Over time, as you learn to read it correctly, you can start to figure out what the end product will look like, but until you actually try it out you're not entirely sure. Being around other people that can read it and teach you will help, but if you just rely on their interpretation you'll have a hard time figuring it out yourself. Finally, once you've learned to read it, you can take a piece you've never seen before and know how the end product is going to be before even beginning the process (playing the instrument or actually playing).

Now, RPGs are different in that each game can teach the reader how to read it correctly. And thats a goal that I think is worth striving for.



I started a design thread here at the Forge. Hoo-ha.


Oh Man

Was that one fucking tough weekend or what. Mmm, 54 out of 96 hours spent working! If you for some reason see the episode of Three Wishes on NBC that takes place in Clovis, NM, that stage and lighting rig was what took up my last couple of days.

Anyhow, Timestream cover is being gotten tomorrow, if all goes well, and it should be good to go by the end of the week. Totally awesome.

Note to self - don't forget to post something about the reading music/reading rules metaphor you came up with in the car.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


That's What I'm Talking About...

...when I say that Illusionism Is Bad Roleplay

[d20 Fantasy] Death To Illusionism. Testify!