Thursday, March 30, 2006


This sucks.

This sucks.


Wow, mods jumped on that quick. Same post here. Still sucks.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Carry & Other Updates

Got to run Carry at I-CON for Thor, Dro and Mayuran (three of the Burning Wheel mafia). They were awesome, and I eagerly await in-depth feedback from them. The game jumped from a 6 on the awesome scale to at least a 7.5 just from that game and the tweaks that I'm now making, centering it more on Burdens (where it should be) and tuning the actual play structure. This, combined with the general awesomeness of all the Indie peeps that showed up, made it a good time for me, despite the lack of sales.

I also helped invent a role-playing exercise called Death Stakes. It grabs your man-grapes and squeezes until you realize that illusionism is bad roleplay.

I finished Countdown for Game Chef 2006. It's not that great as a game, but I find it interesting in concept. I expect I may try to throw together a game, see how it holds up, then make it a little prettier and offer it as a free download. Anyone who wants to play, leave a comment.

I'm about a third of my way through my essay on Sim. Hopefully that'll get posted soon.

Every day I get home and wish that I could ignore the rest of my life and just work on games. I don't know if thats a good thing or a bad thing.

Friday, March 24, 2006


Playing Critically

I've been thinking a bit about something that Luke said at Vericon.

(From my notes) Luke: Focused on one game, Burning Wheel. His advice, take a game you enjoy, and destroy and obliterate and burn out everything you don't like about it. It'll become unrecognizable, then you add in stuff that makes you happy.

So the last couple long-form games I've run have been Adventure! and Aberrant, two of the Aeonverse games from White Wolf. I understand that there was a d20 version of Aberrant released, but I fie upon that and stick to the modded storyteller system used in the original games.

I've noticed that, even though I have tried to play by the rules, there are definitly areas of the game which I just can't make myself engage with because they bore me. Specifically, the whole "NPCs have the same stats as PCs and you must track them" thing. If I ever have the urge to write a Storyteller-esque game (which Imp kind of will end up being, maybe-sorta), thats what I'm going to fucking burn out. It makes me sad, and sometimes angry. Which is lame. In play I scoot around it by just making up stats off the top of my head that are directly applicable. "Well, you're using your Dominate power on this baseline guard....I guess he has, like, 5 Willpower. Sounds good." Straight up No Myth GMing on my part. [EDIT: Looks like I'm not the only one.]

Which sucks, because it throws a big part of the mechanical structure of the game, the balancing between Powers and Taint, out the window. If I want a heavily Tainted adversity, I'll just make it up, without going into the guts and figuring out what mechanical reason he has to be Tainted. At our last session, I used a power to inflict two different kinds of damage over the course of an encounter, and one of the players (who knows the rules way better than I do) was all "Well, technically, it does one OR the other, which you pick when you take the power." And I was all "Well, he has the power twice!" Lame on my part.

I feel like the GM shouldn't have to keep track of more than any other player in terms of resources to affect the fictional material. It's always been something that I tiptoe around with traditional games, with greater (2nd ed D&D) and lesser (Storyteller) degrees of success. It's another "huh, I do that in all the games I design" thing that I kind of just noticed, like how I deal with character death.

What do I mean by "
the GM shouldn't have to keep track of more than any other player in terms of resources to affect the fictional material"? Well, take Storyteller (or D&D, for that matter). The players all have a character sheet, which is a list of the resources they have to effect the fictional material of the game, in the form of traits and pools and powers and whatnot. Now, it is expected that the GM should have the same sheet for the principle antagonists, and at least an abbreviated stat block for lesser adversaries, along with knowledge about difficulty levels and what kind of mechanics to apply to which challenging situations. Assume a group of 3 players. That will probably give you at least 2 or 3 principle antagonists at any given time, plus mooks, plus all the environmental challenges they'll run into. That's a lot of tracking for the GM to do, and frankly, at this point in my gaming career doing that much paperwork is BORING.

Now look at Carry. Everyone has a pool of dice. The GM has no guidelines to how he uses his, while the players have their Approach and Profile to deal with. This is a design decision that I made, to not have the GM have to choose an Approach. Why should he? He should use his judgement to provide an appropriate level of adversity, depending on his resources, the other players resources, and the overall tone and direction of the game and the specific situation at hand. In practice, I enjoy this much more, because I don't feel like I'm responsible for maintaining some kind of platonic "well, if you ever WERE to engage Dr. Mephisto on the topic of windsurfing, his Watersports 4 would totally kick your ass" ideal.

So, my mythical Storyteller heartbreaker would give the GM a pool of dice depending on how badass or important the adversity is, and he can roll out of that pool of the dice for whatever he wants in response to the characters actions. Maybe he would choose two or three key traits that give a bonus dice (like, Kicks Magnetic Ass would give him an extra dice for bringing the characters magnetic mastery into the gamespace, or something). Or maybe each NPC has an "Effectiveness" stat, plus the menu of powers, and anything they do that doesn't have to do with a power, the GM just rolls their effectiveness.

Y'know. Something that would make me happy.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


I-CON 25

I will be at I-CON 25 this coming weekend, along with TonyLB, Jared Sorenson, Luke Crane, and Clinton R. Nixon. There's a buttload of other guests and shtuff as well (Michael Pondsmith from R. Talsorian and Steve Kenson from Green Ronin, among others), but I don't forsee myself straying too far from the indie gaming.

I have a demo of Timestream scheduled for Friday night, and a game of Carry for Saturday. I'll also be working on my boothmonkey skills, and will do my damnedness to finally play some Burning Wheel! The indie games schedule is here.

We'll see how it goes. It'll be an interesting contrast to Dreamation, I expect, but I also expect good times. Come next Monday, my two weeks of craziness will finally be over, and hopefully I can get back on track with general online participation, as well as getting more work done on Carry.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


Character Death

I just realized that none of my game designs include a provision for character death.

In Timestream, you play until you are done with the character (satisfied, bored, whatever). I mean, I guess if you had a really harsh Strain break, and you were very low on a Capacity and you brought it down to -6, you could say that you died. But, if you don't want it, no death for you.

The whole point of Carry is that everyone dies except your character.

The game I'm designing for Game Chef won't have anything about character death. Again, character failure could lead to a narration of character death, but that's a choice, nothing mechanical about it.

So, that's interesting, in a "huh, that's something I should think about" kind of way.

Sunday, March 12, 2006



So the Iron Game Chef competition is going on, if you haven't been alerted already.

I'm not gonna lie - I was totally underwhelmed by the theme this year. Last year, I read the theme/restriction/ingredients, and got really excited about the million ideas I was getting. This year, I read the theme and ingredients, and went "Buh..." for about 2 days.

I guess its some combination of I feel like designing for a specific session length is something I've already done (see Carry), and being a little ticked that the only concrete "challenge" I wanted to set for myself for the competition was to design an open-ended, campaign-style game. So that's, uh, not going to happen. Finally, I think the structure of two categories of ingredients is a poor choice, and will give Andy feedback about that for sure.

BUT! I've been brainstorming, waiting for something interesting to grab me, and I think it has. So that's awesome, and I'll see what comes of it.

Sadly, I have probably my busiest week of the semester coming up, so I won't be able to be too active on the Game Chef boards, which sucks. But I hope that I can pull out a solid game, and see how it stacks up to some of the AWESOME ideas that are flying around right now.

So, we will see. If anyone reading this is also participating, good luck! May the best chef win....

Thursday, March 09, 2006


Manouver Resolution

Here's something that made my brain go "sweet!" It's from Story-Games, at the end of a thread entitled Sell Me On: Task Resolution

John Harper Said:

Maneuver Resolution. Yeah, that's pretty nifty.

However! I don't think MR has a "pre-defined result". Because if you have agreed to the result before the roll... well, you're resolving stakes. :-)

Remember, this is stakes resolution:
"If you roll a 25 or better, you hit and do 2d8 damage."

So, maneuver resolution would be:
"Roll to hit. DC 25."

"That would take a climbing roll. +2 for your rope."

"Make a stealth roll."

There's no agreement before the roll about what is being resolved (no stakes, in other words). It's just a roll "to see if you do it." The consequence of the action is not explicit and agreed-upon beforehand.

This makes total intuitive sense to me, and has a very clear empirical determinent: do you establish the results of the roll before you make it? If yes, its stakes resolution, with the stakes being whatever that result you established is. If no, its manouver resolution, and (here's the exciting part) something else has to happen after you roll to establish the result.

In a lot of gaming, this is by fiat by whoever has the authority over that roll - like, in D&D, the GM calls for a Perception roll. A character succeeds. All that has been established is that he succeeded at the Perception roll - now, the GM says "You see rustling in the bushes." Thats the system of GM authority kicking in to establish the result of the manouver.

Another system from D&D - the random roll tables. Like, with a Wand of Wonder - say you have to make an Intelligence or Spellcraft roll to use it (stakes resolution). Then the system says "Roll on this table of random magical effects." The GM rolls (manouver resolution) and gets a shower of flowers. Stuff like that.

Looking at it from this perspective, resolution mechanics can have quite the range of combinations of Stakes and Manouver mechanics. Like Dogs - overall mechanic is Stakes Res. Each Raise, though, is Manouver Res - the system asks "Can you beat this dice result with that dice result?" If you can, you get to narrate something, but the result of the raise itself is not set before you make it. The player has authority to narrate in something appropriate.

It seems to me that the field of "what happens after you succeed at a manouver roll" could be quite a fertile field for design.

Edit: John Harper has provided his term definitions at Story Games. Very nice.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Everyone, I Tell You!

I maintain the position that everyone should play InSpectres. No, I don't care, shut up, play InSpectres.

Played it tonite for our one-shot night - oh man. My InSpectres play continues to be an unbroken string of Awesome. Player comments: "I like this game a lot more than I thought I would" and "Wow, this is a really fun game." I had a blast.

Damn you, Sorensen! Between InSpectres and PTA, us lowly mortals have an awful high standard for reliably fun play to reach.

Monday, March 06, 2006



I've been looking through this site for the last hour: National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum

I find it...very powerful.

As I do more research for Carry, read more memoirs, get more information about how the survivors of Vietnam reflect on their experiences, I can't help feeling that making their stories into a game is disrespectful. Maybe even insolent. Like, people shouldn't be having fun with this stuff. What right do I, a college student that has absolutely no idea what combat is like, let alone Vietnam itself, have to engage with this material in the way I am? Why am I taking these experiences and putting them into a form which is meant to create an enjoyable evening's pasttime?

What if I do it wrong?

What if I do it right?