Monday, September 26, 2005



Yay! The first independent review for Timestream has happened! You can check it out here.

Overall: this is a very unique system with some great concepts. It is a great treatment of the time travel genre. There was some difficulty trying to figure out what to do with this once we got moving. The large amount of group storytelling being done mainly by the players themselves is very different from your traditional game and will not be for all groups."


Unfortunately, my webspace servers are someone in the Hurricane Rita-affected area (the admins sent out an email warning about it). The site is still up, but the FTP service seems to be down. So I can't update the site yet. Damn! Hopefully it'll come back online soon.

And I'm pulling everything together for Southern Exposure....oh man. Oooooh man.

Friday, September 23, 2005


Primetime Adventures Series Bible: Midway

This post is the series bible for the PtA game my group started last week. I invite questions and comments in the...uh...comments. Any players who have a question or want to add something, post a comment and I'll edit the main post.

Inspired by Firefly and WWII, the show Midway centers on the exploits of the crew of a trading/smuggling ship against the backdrop of intersteller war. The civilizations in this universe are heavily flavored by real-world cultures. The war, which has been going on for 4 years when the series begins, is between an Austrio-Prussian Federation and a New World/American network of colonies that are in rebellion and demanding independence.

We begin the series right before the first of the other great intersteller powers gets drawn into the War, triggering a detente-like situation that will end up polarizing the galaxy between the Colonists and Federation.

The protagonists are all crew on the ship Midway. They are a ragtag bunch drawn from all cultures, and attempting to make their way through the overall conflict as unscathed as possible.

While energy-style weapons and more futuristic technology is available, it's typically reserved for the more elite and/or wealthy. The standard level of technology is advanced circuitry and computing power, but inside WWII-esque items and styles. For example, the Midway itself essentially looks like a troop transport plane. AI constructs are common, and have personalities.

The overall tone and feel for the series is dark and gritty, but not hopeless or depressing. Humorous moments are definitely allowed and encouraged, but not slapstick or just random craziness.

The war will fade in and out of the background in terms of importance, in sync with the protagonists Screen Presence and Issues.

There's probably not aliens, but we're not coming down on that definitively.

So far we have two protagonists:

Captain Jacob, originally from a wealthy family in the Federation. His brother was killed in the war, and he abandoned his home and family rather than be forced to go. His Issue is that he's lost, but wants to belong.

C. Marne, the laborer/muscle on the ship. He's from an ally civilization of the Federation, and got accidentally tracked into a program that turns citizens into super-soldiers. Being a coward at heart, he deserted, but still has psychotic episodes of violence. His issue is that he wants to be normal, or at least not to be forced into situations where he has to commit violent acts.

We've left the rest of the crew sketchy, as we'll be adding at least one more Protagonist.

Good times. PtA rules.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005



aka "Finally, some damn theory"
aka "The newspaper treatment"

What do we need to know? Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. More specifically:

Who role plays?
What do we do when we role play?
What happens when we role play?
When do we role play?
Where do we role play?
Why do we role play?
How do we role play?

When and Where are more ancilliary, I think (except in the context of when in life do we role play, or something, which I don't think is particularly useful). I would argue that the Forge is doing a bang-up job of examining Who and Why. Various blogs (like anyway and This Is My Blog to name the most prominent) are also very down with Why, and, to an extent, How. At Game Foo, Joshua is taking aim squarely at What we do and How. And here, I'm, in fits and starts, trying to work on What happens.


Previous Posts on this subject:
What Is It We Do Again?
What It Is We Do, 2

Working 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.

From Joshua's comment, lets add in "at various points during play" after the second sentence.

Let's also start unpacking the last sentence a little more. There is a relationship between creation of input and exploration of input that I don't think is automatically synonomous with the relationship between creation and appreciation. That is, you can explore what others have created without necessarily appreciating it, and vice versa. [Thought tangent = exploration without appreciation and appreciation without exploration as processes that underlie gaming dysfunction?]

So we have relationships between creation, exploration and appreciation. This is keying into Joshuas model, I think, and his comments on this point would be appreciated! Remember that players are audience-participants. It seems to me that creation is a participatory process, appreciation is an audience(y? I'm sure there's a better word) process, and exploration swings both ways. There is active exploration (Whats in this room? What is she thinking? Describe this scene to me!) and passive exploration (You walk into the room and see...).

Now, what happens when we actually play is that each player oscillates from creator of material to appreciator of material. I propose that the medium for this oscillation, or perhaps the motive force that controls this oscillation, is that of exploration. The audience member passively explores the material created by others, but as they get interested and start actively creating their own material they shift to active exploration.

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 at various points during play. The medium of change from audience to participant during the course of a game is the level of engagement in exploration. The recursive dynamic between the creation and appreciation of input to the game is key.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


Timestream Actual Play

X-posted with The Forge.

I've been playtesting my materials for the Timestream game I'll be running at Southern Exposure at the end of the month. Todays game was very fun, and provided some examples of the bricolage that I think is so central to rewarding Sim play. If people want more on bricolage, shout out and I'll dig up the links.

Anyway, Timestream is pretty much impossible to play with anything resembling a set storyline. The character creation and R-map creation mechanics create a set of played characters linked by a web of Anchors, and play tends to end up revolving around one or two central anchors that bind the characters across time. Thus, the process of bricolage is critical to the actual production of plot/story/events/what have you. For Timestream in particular, the key question to "unlocking" the kind of bricolage that needs to happen in play is "What, right now, right here, would be cool?"

Now, for this game I pre-generated a set of characters and their Anchors. The players select characters, choose some options (their actual time-affecting powers, and their primary goals and obstacles to those goals), and are ready to go. One of my regulars was unable to show up today, so it was myself and two players. We're all college students and experienced role-players. I don't think its particularly relevent to my point here, but I'll be more than happy to fill out our RPG histories and personal backgrounds if need be.

Weldon picked up the artist character (Victoria), a "bleeding-edge" media artist and Temporal Manipulator from 2002 NYC. Pat chose the end-of-his-rope dock worker Thrall (Joe) from 1990 NYC. The most central Anchor to the overall R-map (6 characters in all) is Daniel, who is Joe's son and a possible patron for Victorias as-yet-unknown art.

The point during play that really "clicked" for me in terms of bricolage was this: Victoria has just saved Daniel's ass from being hauled off by Mafia polookas for an as-yet-unknown reason. Joe is being forced by his Master to track down someone named "Lambetti" in Victoria's timeframe. I cut from a scene with Victoria to Joe walking down the street, still unclear on what his Master wants him to do and trying to be proactive in some manner. I asked myself "What would be cool, right now?" I decided that a car pulled up next to Joe and a Mafia-looking palooka yells "Hey Dan, where the hell you going? We need to get to the meeting!" Over the course of the scene, we determined that (young) Joe looked just like Dan, that Dan was apparentely quite the joker ("Come on Dan, drop the act, this is serious) and that the guys in the car were going to meet Lambetti.

Click, click, click. A connexion was forged. I knew it, and I'm pretty sure the other guys knew it - of course Joe looks like Dan. Of course Dan was going to get Joe in trouble with Lambetti, whoever he was, and Lambetti would send thugs after the real Joe.

Now, this was cemented with the next scene with Joe: "Lambetti leans across the table and asks you what you're going to offer him in way of apology for what you've done to him." Ding! Obviously Pat now had to have Joe do something to piss of Lambetti. It was a good moment.

Continuity was created, not by an overarching story, or even by plot points or prepped bangs. Continuity was created, I would argue, by the process of bricoling our knowledge of the current situation and these characters with the sense, given by the game text, that these characters should and will be connected, in play, through their Anchors. This process was supported by system, both the cascading effects from character creation and actual mechanics having to do with Anchors.

I think this kind of thing happens frequently in role play, but usually on the Technique level - i.e., this GM is so good, he totally links everything that happens. I'm not going to know for sure until I see some actual play reports, but Timestream absolutely requires this kind of bricolage in order to be...well, coherent is the word I would use, but not necessary in the Forge sense of the word. Continuous, perhaps.

As for a specific question, I would ask that, given this example, does anyone know other games that reliably support or create this kind of process of bricolage? I'd love to check them out. Other discussion questions or topics stemming from this post are totally kosher as well.
Incidentally, I hope to be posting more actual theory stuff in the near future. Damn real life!

Monday, September 12, 2005


Windsor Gaming Resource

Check it out here.

A cool site, but thats not why I'm posting about it. What happened was, the guy who set it up saw my press release for Timestream on Gaming Report, thought it seemed interesting, and emailed me about doing a link exchange and such. Here's the lessons I've learned:

*Do a press release. People do read it. Some of them will be cool and help you out.
*Be nice. Maurice has been nothing but friendly thus far, and it's made me feel really good.
*Follow up on everything!

Anyway, I've been feeling really good about it, and I just wanted to share my experience with others just starting out - it may take a while, but you will get some attention from somewhere. Also, your product will, to an extent speak for itself - so concentrate on your game, dammit!

Thursday, September 08, 2005



A quick one before work...I wonder if you released a game (not a session, not advice, but the actual game) via podcast, if anyone would play.

Friday, September 02, 2005


Structured v. Emergent

This ties into the larger discussion of Craftsmanship that was all over the blogs some months ago.

The first step, from my own experience and from reading many posts in the Indie Design forum at the Forge, in Forge-style design is to create mechanics that directely support whatever behaviour you want to happen, especially in terms of reward cycle. For example, in Timestream, I want access to the cool stuff (time travel Aspects and temporal manipulation Techniques) to be contingent on pursuing a characters goals - so, the only time you get Aspects/Techniques is when you mechanically acheive a Goal.

This is all well and good and workable, but it seems...clunky. Kind of transparent, as in "the designer obviously wants me to do X". Now, part of truly great game design, true craftsmanship, is supporting behavior through the emergent properties of the rules. This is where PTA and DitV, among others, shine, especially PTA. I haven't yet seen the updated second edition, but PTA's core mechanics are very spare and basic. But they have the emergent property of getting people to hook into each others creativity and excitement in an organized and focused manner. And thats awesome.

Incidentally, much of the criticism I've read of PTA (again, 1st edition) in particular stems from this issue. You read it, and you go "oh, so you compare some dice to determine the outcome of the conflict, and you can give people dice if you like what they do. Whats the big deal?" And its defenders go "you have to play it to see what the big deal is" - because, when you get right down to it, thats where the big deal is. It's emergent.

So, my ambition with Carry is to create an emergent dynamic that's not really spelled out in the rules. And I think that that's going to be far more difficult to design that anything else I've done thus far.

Slightly related rhetorical question: I wonder how much of general geekdom and fanboyarry stems from not actually playing, and subsequently mistaking written mechanics for the sum total of the game?

Thursday, September 01, 2005


The Plunge

So I've committed to going to Southern Exposure to demo and sell Timestream. Oh boy. I'm, like, getting really nervous about it. Not to mention that I need to put together a 4-hour game, and figure out a booth demo. Scary! However, it looks like I'm going to be in the company of Mike "With Great Power..." Miller and Tony "Capes" Lower-Ba..uh...however you spell it. Also scary, but also very cool.

I have all these great plans - like getting my print edition done, and also selling the PDF stuff on disk, and cool stuff like that. What I'd like to do is have CDs to sell at the PDF price/give to people who buy the print edition/promo disk with support materials. Ideally, sticky-back paper cases to put on the inside back cover of the book. I'd also like to have the book available in both spiral and perfect binding - you know, maximum choice and all that. I hope I have the time to get everything done! Eeeee!

So, to you Con veterans out there, what should I look out for? Any tips? Things to avoid? Things to make sure to prepare?