Sunday, April 30, 2006


Champions Of The Gods

"The Gods who create their Champions as Travelers tend to have a broad scope of interest and far-ranging goals. They may be Forgotten Gods who wish their Champion to change things in the past so that their future will be brighter. They may be established Gods who want their Champion to ensure that their power will not diminish. They may have a specific grudge against another God, and are making a tactical choice in regards to their Champion; they may want a defender of the faith who is capable of being anywhere and anywhen at the drop of a hat.

The Gods who create their Champions as TMers tend to have a more straight-forward agenda, or a particular situation which they want their Champion to handle. They may be a God who is facing defeat and has been saving up their power for a last effort to turn the tides. They may wish a miracle-worker or prophet who can proselytize in their name. They may need an avenger or a leader of men who can can best any mortal, or a Champion to carve out or aggressively defend a space for them among a host of similar gods. They may desire a Champion in the strictest sense of the word, one who goes forth and battles other Champions for the honor and glory of their God.

The Gods who create their Champions as Thralls tend to have more circuitous plans, and usually desire control, have a sense of paranoia, or feel the need for an iron fist of authority. Some of these Gods have had Champions fail in the past due to their autonomy, and wish to ensure that it doesn't happen again. Others take a much more personal interest in the doings of their mortal followers. Some, of course, just want to have their champion be as versatile as possible, even it means that they have to keep an eye on him at all times. Keep in mind that a Thrall is actually one step closer to his God than a TMer or Traveler – he is literally channeling the Gods Divine essence from the source, as opposed to being a granted a very discrete part of it. Most Gods keep a consequently closer eye on their Thralls than they would on a Traveler or TMer."

Thursday, April 27, 2006


Indie Game Designer Primer Entry #35

The GM is a myth.

There is no such person as the GM. The GM is a set of duties and responsabilities, which vary from game to game. These duties have traditionally been assigned to one player of the game, but this is not the only way that these duties can be divided among a group of players. Some of these duties are formal and written in a game text, while others are informal, and sometimes unspoken. These duties often include, but are not limited too:

*Providing antagonism for the player characters.
*Playing the roles of non-player characters.
*Looking up and arbitrating rules disputes.
*Disseminating rules amongst the group.
*Providing a physical space for play.
*Creating the backstory or world for play.
*Creating the plot for the story the group will tell.
*Being proactive and driving the player characters forward.
*Being reactive and drawing the player characters onward.
*Writing up the stats for non-player characters.
*Giving out rules rewards (like experience points, treasure and other game resources)
*Enabling and arbitrating the distribution of reward amongst the players (like fan mail).

Again: different games give the GM different duties in the text. Many groups also assign GM duties that pertain to that particular group and game. These duties are sometimes centralized in one person, sometimes divided amonst multiple people, and sometimes as evenly distributed among the group as possible.

Understanding which GM duties are called for in your game, and dividing them in a way that supports your design goals, is a critical part of design.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Sim and Immersion

So I was just skimming this Story-Games post.

It seems to me that Sim and Immersion have the same problem. They're both too damn big.

Let us take some hypothetical examples.

A: I like Sim play!
B: Cool, me too! Lets's play X.
A: But....X isn't Sim. There's not even mechanics for drowning and falling!
B: But...yeh it is. In the books, no-one ever drowns or falls. Why the hell should there be mechanics for it? But there are mechanics for doing double-somersaults! Those are totally in all of the books!
A: Uh...ok. But no-one could -actually- do double-somersaults in that world. There's too much gravity. That's actually my big problem with the books - not internally consistent. This game, on the other hand....

A: I like Immersionist play!
B: Cool, me too! Let's play X.
A: But...X isn't immersionist. It has too many die rolls. How can I immerse when I have to pick up the dice all the time?
B: But...yeh it is. Every time I play I get so totally immersed in the story, man. It's awesome.
A: Uh...ok.

I'm not a huge fan of making new terms and categories...but really. Damn. I don't think there's going to be much productive discussion until subcommunities of these over-broad categories manage to clearly delineate what they do and why they like it, thus making it possible to compare and contrast amongst those delineations.

It's like, fuck. If we only had the word "fruit," it would be awfully hard to order a damn watermelon, now wouldn't it.

Monday, April 24, 2006



I had a realization while playing Squash today. I miss 2nd ed. AD&D, because I had a grand old time reading the books and imagining stuff. It was a cool feeling, and I don't really have it any more, and I miss it a little.

These days, I don't bother with imagining while I read the game, cuz what comes up in play is always more awesome. Thats cool.


So I was reaming out my computer, and found an old document containing the "Role-Playing Guidelines" that the GM for my last, and most dysfunctional, D&D 3rd game a couple of years ago. It contained the following vaguely related gems:

[Under "OOC Chatting"]
All OOC talk will be designated with the “chicken-wing” sign. [This was that we were supposed to tuck one arm under the armpit and flap it like a chicken wing. This was meant to make it harder to have OOC chatter.]

Try to keep it to a reasonable minimum. This is a social game for people’s fun, so some of it is obviously appropriate, but too much unnecessarily detracts from the game.

OOC, when used, should be appropriately humorous, necessarily to the gaming group, or really, really funny in general. Horrific role-playing anecdotes can only be used when I have just made one myself, or when it directly pertains to the current events. Note: this rule has been created because otherwise, we would be a support group, not a role-playing group.

[Under "Bad Karma"]

Bad karma can be earned in a multitude of ways, such as:
o Being disruptive to game play
o Arguing rules in game, if a correction is not immediately visible (book and page, and paragraph reference)
o Being belligerent to other players, OOC
o Using OOC knowledge in game, or taking OOC issues into the game.

[Under "Good Karma"]

Good karma is a mystical entity that randomly strikes those who earn the gods’ good fortunes.

Good karma can not be used on the player who earns it. Rather, that player designates at the time of use who the good karma affects, and how so. All affects are subject to DM approval.

Yah, I'm a little bitter.

In other news, IPR is having a 20% off May Day sale. So hit that shit up. Buy Timestream.

Speaking of which! New, exciting developments for Timestream, coming very soon!

Friday, April 14, 2006


[Carry] Last Call for Playtesters


As of very soon, the "public" playtesting of Carry will be over, and I'll be communicating solely with those who have already played and given me feedback. This means that the current version that's available for download will NOT be updated, though it will remain publically available for the curious.

If you are interested in playtesting and haven't gotten in touch with me, you need to drop me an email (n dot d dot paoletta at gmail dot com) ASAP.

Previous playtest threads:

[Carry] But, I want endgame now!
[Carry] Sweet Decline
[Carry] Obsidian Fist Playtest
[Carry] I-CON Game

Feel free to post questions. Thanks!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


I Don't Want Anyone To Miss This

Paul Czege sez:

The fact is that games are learning tools. People play games to learn about themselves and to take on skills. Your starting point as a modern RPG designer¹ isn't the metaphor. It's what you want to learn. And then you figure out how an RPG could teach it. But lessons are hard. We have defense mechanisms. So part of your task is figuring out how to make the medicine go down. Metaphor is just one tool in that arsenal. It's a way of veiling what you're doing, so as to fly under defense mechanisms. But Bacchanal doesn't have a metaphor, and it's as much a learning tool as My Life with Master. Bacchanal presumes that effective storycrafting is less about the way you string your sentences together and more about audience management. And it asserts that audience management is achieved by bringing personal honesty to your storycrafting. The game is a bit of a sink-or-swim, but it works pretty consistently because the dice mechanics impose constraints on narration in a way that gives the player plausible denial. "That debauchery didn't come from me. It came from the dice." So as long as you have one risk taker in the group, everyone learns something. What Ron is saying is that focusing on the technique of metaphor is putting the cart way before the horse. Figure out what you want to learn.² Figure out how a game can teach you that. Then worry about how to make the medicine go down. And it won't always be a metaphor.


¹I say "modern RPG designer" because most traditional RPGs aim at the same thing. They aim at giving the player a chance to validate his worldview and test his personal viability in a complex world. That's a pretty passive goal. And we all already have shelves of these games. Modern RPGs increasingly work to alter a player's worldview and impart skills. (Ron's own It Was a Mutual Decision is a non-Czege example.)

²The way to figure out what you want to learn is to figure out what truly interests you in the media you consume. All this stuff about making the medicine go down is me thinking about how my games work well in retrospect of having created them. I didn't conceive of My Life with Master out of consciously wanting a tool for teaching how to resolve being controlled via suppression of self-esteem. I just couldn't stop thinking about a game in which the player characters were evil henchmen.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Another "Duh" Moment

Another issue I've been having with my Aberrant game (and, with Storyteller games in general) is the awarding of experience. Back in the day, I tried to give out experience as it says in the book (i.e. 1 automatic, 1 for fulfilling a story goal, 1 for good roleplay, etc), and realized I always gave the same player the "good roleplay" award, mainly because he's good at playing a character with a radically different viewpoint than his own. Since then, I've just based the amount of XP on the length and intensity of the session (short or slow sessions net 3, standard is 5, long or awesome sessions gets 7+).

The Duh Moment is me realizing why XP in this system is so unsatisfying for me - character progression doesn't tie into any actual mechanical stuff. No matter which resources on the sheet they use, or which flags I respond to as the GM, or which rolls are successes and which are failures, it's still basically up to me to decide how much they get, and thus how fast they progress.

Compare this to Dogs - every single change to your character is a direct consequence of the choices you make while engaging in the escalation mechanics. Boom.

For my Adventure! game over the summer, I tweaked experience to be more directly applicable, and it worked pretty well - your experience pool and your Inspiration pool were the same, and you could give other players Inspiration/XP as fan mail, in addition to the mechanical ways to gain Inspiration and the GM handout of XP. It was cool, because it encouraged the players to measure how important immediate benefits of spending Inspiration was, compared to the permanent benefits of spending XP.

But yah. XP progression in Storyteller gets the "bad design" stamp from me.

Friday, April 07, 2006


Walk Tall

Dear Gamer: Walk Tall. is the best thread I've read at to date. I suggest that non-regular readers check it out.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Game A Day is dead. Long live Game A Day!

So, as regular (hah) readers may have noticed, the Game A Day Project has been pretty defunct since the holidays. There are reasons beyond my own laziness - two of them, in fact. The first is that when I got started working again on my actual games (Carry, to be precise) I no longer had the energy to come up with gaming-related bits that I wouldn't necessarily use. The second is that I wasn't personally getting what I had wanted out of the project.

I am, however, ready to give it another shot, with two major changes. The first is that it's a place to post, not only game-related tidbits and thought experiments, but also little lessons learned from playing games. Not just RPGS - if you play any kind of game, and have a "huh, this is an interesting/applicable/crappy design element," but don't have the interest or energy to making it into a full AP post, Game A Day is where to put it.

The second major change, as indicated by the use of "you" in the above, is that I would like to open it up to the community at large. So, if you would like to post to Game A Day, leave a comment here and I'll hook you up. You need a blogger account, I suppose.

What's the point? Well, a repository specifically dedicated to gaming ideas, thoughts, bits and lessons seems like a useful resource to me, and they are the kinds of things that tend to get lost in active forum discussion. Feel free to argue/critique/lambast the idea in comments.