Sunday, July 30, 2006



Hamsterprophecy: Prevision

I thought I could stick it out, but I was wrong. I have moved to WordPress.

Update links and such to

[Edit] Mmm...thanks Joshua. Comments have now been turned off here.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


The Book As Artifact

Here's a honest question: are there any large-press games that are being produced with an eye towards how the book itself, as an artifact, informs play?

This is one of those things that really excites me about the creator-owned design and production process. We can make books that, by their physical makeup, interface with the imagined content that playing that game generates. One thing I'm really hankering to check out at Gen Con is Keith Senkowski's Untitled. I'm also very curious to flip through Shock:. The cover is gorgeous and evocative, and I can't imagine that the content is any less.

I know that Ron has posted about how he put Sorcerer together the way he did because he wanted picking it up and flipping through it to be a different experience, from the get-go, than picking up a standard-size game book. I think InSpectres has a good physical presence at the table, personally. Small and unobtrusive and glanceable.

Carry is laid out in a manner inspired by military field manuals (credit where credit is due - I may not have gone through with it were it not for Keith's prodding). It's pretty stark and serious and no-nonsense. I think it works. I'm very curious to see reactions from people who pick it up sight unseen.

This is one element of a larger concern that is becoming stronger within me. Production is an element of design. As I start to conceptualize new projects, I've been thinking about how the final product will look, and work, as a part of how the game itself will play. At this point, I can't even imagine saying "Well, maybe it'll be 5.5x8.5, unless I get a high enough page count, in which case I'll go for full-size, maybe with a hardcover."

Where am I on the spectrum with this? And what kinds of other concerns that relate physical book design to the gameplay experience should I be incorporating?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


I Wish I Could Think About Something Else, But I Can't

Carry AP at The Forge: Levels Of Engagement

Preorders will close on Friday at midnight (East Coast US).

I'll be sending out emails, but in case I don't track you down: If you're going to be at Gen Con and want your preorder there, let me know (here in comments or

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


On Stupidity

From Stephen Brusts' LJ

I was aware that considering the greater part of humanity to be idiots is popular in the science-fiction and fantasy community; I had not realized the importance it held in many people's personal identity. This intrigues me.

Of course, such an attitude is death to an artist. An artist who holds that opinion has only a few choices: to write down to his audience, thus producing insulting drivel (Hollywood is the obvious example); to see his audience as some sort of "elite," which leads to smug, snobbish work profound only in how cleverly it says nothing; or to deliberately cut himself off from any audience, generally followed by either cessation of work, or by a decent into the most worthless self-indulgence.

Friday, July 21, 2006



I finally managed to put the right words to the concept behind Carry.

Carry isn't about Vietnam. It's about the fiction that American culture has created about Vietnam.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Another Timestream Review

So, a while back, I received an email from a very nice fellow with the Cerberus Too ezine, a Dutch gaming magazine. I don't really understand the structure of its relationship with the other stuff on that page, but the long and short of it is that I just today got the review translated into English! Many thanks to Herman Duyker for his helpful service. Below is the email he sent me:

It looks like this is a Flemish (the dialect of Dutch spoken in the North of Belgium) review. Text "in quotes" is a direct translation of one or more sentences; the rest is to briefly show what a paragraph is about.

Quite a lot of the review is actually a brief recap of the rules. I have mostly tried to translate the opinions, and left the paragraphs with the rules in it as brief statements of what that bit of text is about.

Note: I've bolded the direct quotes -N

(p.1 col.1)
- Timestream colofon

- Introduction of the Timetravel genre
- 3 types of characters - Travelers, TMers and Thralls
- Welcome to Timestream
- Small press RPG with freedom to create char & background
- Arena's and how they work - not quite like skills, but as areas of expertise

(p.1 col.2)
- Choosing a Style
- Travellers choose 3 Aspects and Ranges

(p.1 col.3)
- TMers choose 3 Techniques out of 6 available ones and choose an Arena to go with that
- Thralls cannot influence time themselves, but get that power from others. They can choose 3 Aspects and/or Techniques, but need to take a Loyalty and Masters Control Arena.
- Timestream isn't just played with dice, but also with tokens or counters. There are two pools, Time and Strain. A player starts with 10 Time and 0 Strain. Next is an explanation of gaining and losing Time and Strain, using tokens, and what happens when you reach 10 Strain.
- Each player chooses 1 or more Goals and Obstacles.

(p.2 col.1)
- Phase 2: Creating the Relationship Map or R-map that connects characters.
- Each player chooses a number of Anchors for his/her character (usually 2). An Anchor is a person to whom the PC is connected in some way. The Anchor needs to be someone that interests the PLAYER as well.
- This results in a R-map, showing the links between PC's. "This is a quite unique way to connect the characters, and for a change is something different than just saying that all the PC's are mercenaries, that everyone works for the same organisation, or that all characters accidentally meet up in an inn where a rich noble is just announcing that he is hiring adventurers to (strike out what doesn't fit) rescue a damsel in distress / search for an ancient artefact / protect a caravan."
- After choosing the Anchors, each player comes up with a Goal / Obstacle pair.

(p.2 col.2)
- Like time, about every attribute of a character in Timestream is likely to change. "The pleasant thing is that the reasoning here is very logical and fits perfectly within the idea of the game. A PC will not get stronger or more dextrous all of a sudden, but certain things (like reaching Goals, overcoming Obstacles, and breaking Strains) can raise or lower attributes."
- One thing that might be strange for many roleplayers, is that you do not roll for every action, but for an entire scene. Generally, you need one to four rolls to finish a conflict, depending on importance. "Even more special is that the winner of the conflict narates what has happened. This means that players take over part of the gamemaster's task!"
- Rolling for a conflict means adding an appropriate Arena and a possible Obstacle. Each Anchor in the conflict gives a +1 on the roll.
- When you fail, you must either lower the Arena used, the Obstacle, or your own Time pool by 1, or choose to take 1 Strain counter, or increase a Goal by 1, if it was involved in the conflict.
- When you succeed, you can raise either the used Arena or Time by 1, remove 1 Strain, or (if the conflict was related to a Goal) lower a Goal by 1 and remove 1 Strain, or increase an Obstacle by 1 and remove 1 Strain.
- It is important to note that the scores of Goals and Obstacles can go up and down. Until the score of a Goal has reached 0, it is not possible to reach it. Obstacles lowered to 0 are neutralised.

(p.3 col.3)
- It is also possible to study or train for the improvement of Capacities and Arenas.
- Besides this, there are various rules which fit in seamlessly with the concepts of this game.
- Despite the fact that time travel in Timestream won't break many heads, there are some rules to which it must comply.
- "Timestream is fairly simply laid out, with only a drawing on the cover and an image of a clock inside, but it is a pretty unique and original RPG. All rules support the concept completely and the interaction between the players and the gamemasters is something we usually only find in more obscure RPG's, like those by Jared A. Sorenson. The only problem is that no real opponents are described.\ No metaplot is suggested and there are no clear opponents. This makes the setting look incomplete, and makes the gamemaster do quite some work before he or she can launch a Timestream campaign."

Category | In short | Valuation
Layout | The layout is pretty Spartan, with only a painting | ****5
on the cover and the image of a clock inside. The
structure of the text is quite good, on the other
Content | The basics of time travel are set out very clearly | ****5
and many options have been thought out.
Unfortunately, there is hardly any setting
information given, which means the gamemaster will
have to decide for him/herself what to do with
all those cool characters. This game cries out
for a campaign supplement
Gamesystem | One of the best aspects of Timestream. The rules | ********9
are well thought out, original and fit perfectly
within the concept and the idea of this RPG. On
top of that there is a lot of player input,
which makes Timestream totally different from
almost any other role-playing game.
Score | A great role-playing game, that could use some | *******8
more (different) background(s).

Original by Dirk Vandereyken

Not bad!

Also, more good news coming down the Timestream pipeline, in the near future. There are developments afoot...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


My Manuscript Weeps Red Tears

So Luke sat down with me at DexCon and devestated my manuscript for Carry. In the best way.

Anyway, he gave me many tips for using InDesign, like, correctly - and I have but one thing to say:

Paragraph styles, I love you.