Links & Resources


For those using an RSS aggregator (*coff*FeedDemon*coff*) and want to track my game wiki stuff, plug this feed into your aggregator. That will feed all the page changes within the whole wiki.
Thanks to Dave for pointing out this wiki mod.

Links & Resources

Link for Randy

Diceless Risus: the pretentious edition
Don’t look at me — it’s the author’s name for it.
It needs a pool mechanic added to it (cf. Nobilis) before I’d find the very static nature of the scores viable. Also, it loses the ability for scaling up by increasing the die sizes — still, it’s no worse than vanilla ADRPG as it stands.

Game Design

Which parts are you?

Lumpley, via the Forge

I’ve got a theory.
There’s Setting, System, Character, Situation and Color, right? I think that you can start a game as soon as you’ve nailed down three of the five. That means that a game text must provide at least three of the five to be a whole game. But I really don’t think it matters which three.
You can write a game that provides Character, Situation and Color but leaves Setting and System to be set up by the group, if you want. In fact kill puppies for satan is like that.
Or you could write a game like Sorcerer, providing System, Character and Situation and leaving Setting and Color to the group.
Ars Magica provides Setting, Character and Color, with maybe some Situation too, but not much System at all. (Call me on that, I dare you.) All the WoD games are probably about the same, there.
Obviously, the thicker your game the more you can provide.

Hmm. A game the whole geek family can play:
* Trollbabe: Color (disguised as setting), Situation and character.
* Gods and Monsters: Character, Situation and Color. (And more system than Trollbabe at least.)
* FATE: System, Character. Players must add/select one or more of Setting, Situation and Color.
* Nobilis: Setting, Situation and Color (very little of the actual character is apparent in the stats — there’s more even in d20, where at least skill-point selection reveals preferences and interests.)
* Amber: Setting, Situation and Color (ditto Nobilis, except it has even less system)
* D20: System, Character. Add setting, situation, and color (usually as expressed within skills/feats) to taste.
Hmm… thinking of stuff like Hero and Gurps and whatnot, it seems like most of ‘generic’ systems only have two-of-five, with splatbooks or player input to provide one or more of the other elements.

Actual Play

That didn’t take long

Lee couldn’t make the Nobilis game tonight, so Randy, De, Jackie and I started what will be a short “Grade School Sorcerers” riff.
Notes to follow regarding character generation, opening kickers, and some observations on playing kids in a game that’s designed to create people in dysfunctional relationships, but for now, you can check out the wiki page for Grimm Therapy, which has the PCs, their demons, a fun little customized character sheet, and the One Sheet that describes the game’s customized Humanity and Descriptors.
Update: Here’s the rest.

Links & Resources

Grade School Sorcerers

I’m gonna run this. Brace yourselves.

You know that little boy sleeping in other bed isn’t really your brother. Ever since that game of hide and seek on your birthday last week, well… he’s been different. He got locked in the closet by accident, and by the time Mom got him out, little Joey wasn’t little Joey anymore. Sure, the kid snoring softly over there looks like Joey. Your mom can’t tell the difference, but… you know. You’re not even sure he’s a kid at all- ‘least not like you. He always eats everything on his plate, and brushes his teeth before bed. He even cleaned up the room first. Mom gave him an extra cookie in his lunch yesterday too. But scariest of all, Spot won’t come near him. Spot loves Joey.

Links & Resources

Pulpy Goodness

SeedWiki-PulpProject1557: The Collaberative Repository of Pulp Information for Pulp RPG GMs and Players

Game Design

G/N/S translated into my own words, using examples

Once upon a time (about six months ago), I stumbled on some pretty good games via reviews on and 20×20 room. The first of these was My Life With Master, which was so different in a lot of ways from what I tended to think of as a role-playing game that I wasn’t even sure if it really was a roleplaying game.
It was, however, cool as hell. That I knew.
Reading through the thing and the notes in the back led me to some sites I’d been to before, off and on, but never really delved into too much — Momento-Mori and the number of games available for download there (notably InSpectres, which was a real mind-blowing ‘investigation’ game), and the Forge.
Stuff on the Forge led me to reading up on quite a number of other games whose goals all seemed to be pretty novel and very interesting to me as a GM and even moreso as a player: Sorcerer, Urge, Trollbabe, Dust Devils, Donjon, Paladin, Universalis, et cetera.
These were, I found out, products of folks working on building “Narrativist” games, a style (dare I say “movement”) of games built not (usually) to test out new game mechanics or (necessarily) to create an incredibly detailed setting — but to explore a character dealing with conflict.
“Umm… dude… that’s like… every RPG… ever?”
Well, that’s not to say that other games… older games… didn’t give you a session or a campaign where you got to deal with character conflict. Most every game out there does… that’s sort of the point.
What the narrativist guys were doing was talking about the Literary definition of conflict — that means “a question is posed within the story (overtly or covertly), and the protagonist answers that question through his or her actions.”
So: A ballroom full of hobgoblins that you have to get through to save the princess is not a conflict in these terms; it’s a challenge (which those Forge guys then associated with “Gamist” styles of player).
A conflict by this definition would be something like: “You’ve been given great power. How will that change you?”
The players then play the game, and their characters’ actions define their answers.
Peter Parker’s actions say: Great Power means I must now be responsible.
Bruce Banner’s actions say: Great Power exposes my greatest faults.
Logan’s actions say: Great Power just raises more questions for me.
Or whatever.
What I’m going to do below is talk about three styles of play that the folks on the Forge use when talking about game group dynamics, and use examples of both Games and Example Moments from Actual Play to illustrate what I think each style means in the real world.
I don’t know if any of this will be useful to anyone but me — that’s okay, since it’s mostly just me working on figuring it out.

Game Design

I lasted a whole week without spitting out any G/N/S terminology…

Hmm. I think I’m going to go a bit longer, despite someone handing me (another) nice short definition for the three styles of play today.
It’s not the most accurate description, exactly — I might put it in my own words later — but it works. For what it’s worth the whole thing has really helped me (personally) understand why some of the people I play with react to in-game stuff the way they do. Hell, it helps me understand my own enjoyment (or lack) of a game session.
If nothing else, it made me notice when I’m sitting with a group of six people who think they’re all there to play the same game and three want to play game A and two want to play game C and one wants to play game B, and the issues that might come out of that. That’s Result — it makes me a better GM — maybe even a better player (arguable).

Links & Resources

Reading list for the Fall Semester…

John Kim’s Styles of Roleplaying Page

Actual Play

Sorcerer, Session Five (Bibliophage): Complex Conflict

We had our fifth session of Sorcerer last night. The whole campaign thing is detailed here, along with previous session logs.
This was a really interesting and challenging session — there was one metric assload of combat (something like six or seven different fights spread out in one long stretch of room-to-room warfare). There were a lot of interesting variables (Shannon was already a bit hurt, and no one in the reasonably well-armed group was particularly skilled at using guns on anything other than a firing range), and tons of currency exchange going on.
On with the show:

Links & Resources

Wiki and the Perfect Campaign Trip

Inspired by the fictional Wiki and the Perfect Camping Trip, I’m prompted toward something similar but only semi-fictional to illustrate the uses of wiki for gamers.

Links & Resources

Dis not the wiki

The difference between blog and wiki and why wiki rawks.
Today I was thinking “I should put up a link to Fate RPG so I can hit it easily and quickly. I don’t really want to put it in the blog because if I do it’ll get suXord into the archives and I’ll have to go digging.”
That’s the only thing that isn’t cool with blogs — links are great, and the archives of your life are great, but nothing’s left where you put it a few days ago. Everything slowly shifts downward into the archival sarlacc (sarlaac? hmm, Star Wars spelling angst) pit.
Then, just for a second, I thought “You should just add it as a link to your Fudge page,” and I started to get down about how much of a pain in the ass that was going to be: download html, edit, save, upload, double-check.
Just for a second, it felt like the old days.
Then I remembered that I had put the Fudge page into RandomWiki and with a few easy clicks the link would be in a nice static page that didn’t get pulled into archives and would always be where I left it.
And that felt pretty damn good.
Since Scott asked for it:
Wikis in plain English
Other Wiki Resources:

Game Design

Fudging Fate

“It is a common delusion that you make things better by talking about them.”
— Dame Rose Macaulay
Okay, so ***Dave has (rightfully) voiced some concern over the problems with running Spycraft d20 — while it’s a great adaptation of the system to the genre, the d20 cruft-accumulation added to the not-at-all-inconsiderable Spycraft-additions to the rules has created a sort of never-ending learning curve on the rules.
Translation: we spend as much time looking up stuff now as we did 4 levels and 16 sessions ago. Frankly, that shouldn’t happen.
So, in an effort to keep the ship airborn by jettisoning unwanted baggage, he started looking at other systems. Since I am currently the designated system-whore, I offered up some suggestions, which lead to FATE, which is basically Fudge all growed-up. It’s good stuff, people.
The problem — the only real problem thus far (and one that presents itself even moreso in vanilla Fudge as well), is that there’s some customization required. Granted, this isn’t Fudge, where you have to create your own stats, your own … everything…
but it is a generic system* with all the good and bad that comes with that, and that means custom-built skill lists.
Which means, after digging into the rules (and digging the rules), you’re still stuck hammering out a skill list that isn’t (a) too long (b) too short (c) too plain (d) so ‘flavorful’ that you can’t play it.
It feels a lot like designing a game, which is… well, fun if that’s what you’re in the mood for, but not fun if you’re… not. My brain (and, I’m sure, Dave’s) is fried — turning over questions like “do we need scrounge if we have Streetwise? what level of detail should that kind of activity need in this genre?”
Ugh. I’m down to “Fire bad. Tree pretty.” Pass me the beer.

Links & Resources

RandomWiki Update

Wicked Sorcerer HomePage, in which I collect scads of rules clarification for… you guessed it… Sorcerer — is now up with pretty urls (as is the rest of RandomWiki.

Links & Resources

Applying the Theory

There’s an old quote from Carrie Fischer, speaking to Lucas about his approach to dialogue during the filming of Star Wars: “You can read this shit, but you can’t say it.”
With that in mind, I present a good essay from M.J. Young on how to apply “Forge theories” to “real games” (specifically, designing or customizing games). It’s one of those “give it to me in context” things that folks mentioned in the last post.
Excerpts below, emphasis mine:

Specifically, I’m looking at the theory commonly known as GNS. This theory suggests that role play styles divide into Gamists who enjoy facing the challenges of play, Narrativists who enjoy great stories that involve themes or issues, and Simulationists who seek to know what another reality might be like. Periodically in those discussions [on the theory], someone suggests that the theory isn’t much use because it doesn’t tell you how to design a better game.

I would clarify that to say “Narrativists enjoy posing a question (the ‘premise’) and then answering that question through the events of the game and the actions of their characters. I don’t think theme or story is exclusively narrativist, nor do I think that the current view of the GNS model assumes that’s the case. (The only problem with this essay is that it’s a year or more behind the current view of the theory-in-practice.)

[…] it can be and often is answered that this is not really a theory about how to design games. It’s a theory about what gamers are seeking when they play, and as such has its most effective application as a diagnostic tool for play groups that seem to be internally at odds. In this context, if we have players who are trying to get different things out of the game, having some terminology and definitions by which to discuss what each is seeking can be invaluable in resolving conflict. If all GNS theory did was resolve such conflicts, it would be valuable. However, one cannot read so much as the title of that first article, System Does Matter, without absorbing the idea that game design itself is part of the problem, and therefore could be part of the solution.

I know that in reading this essay and others I started to understand problems and frustrations I’d had in the past with various play groups, so I’d agree, as far as that goes.

[…] GNS considerations are very important to the question of what you are designing. If you guide the players into designing hammers, they’re going to wind up with tools that are very good for hitting things; if you want them instead to write stories, you need to have them design pens.

And one of my favorite quotes illustrating the difference in game modes:

It might help put the entire question of resolution mechanics in perspective by imagining that a character runs, perhaps fleeing from an attacker. The gamist wants to know whether he ran fast enough. The narrativist wants to know how his running illustrated the premise. The simulationist wants to know how fast he ran — any of them might enjoy retelling the story that came out of the scene, because any style of play generates Story. Although all three are concerned about escaping the adversary, they view this in different ways.

There’s some more stuff I wanted to talk about regarding how each style approaches “character” and the sanctity of the character concept (I think Sim is the only one that really approaches the character as sancrosanct), but that’s for another time.

Links & Resources

Game your way to riches a moderate second income.

A really interesting article about the real economy that grew up around the false economy of Everquest: Game Theories.

As Castronova stared at the [Ebay] auction listings, he recognized with a shock what he was looking at. It was a form of currency trading. Each item had a value in virtual “platinum pieces”; when it was sold on eBay, someone was paying cold hard American cash for it. That meant the platinum piece was worth something in real currency. EverQuest’s economy actually had real-world value.
He began calculating frantically. He gathered data on 616 auctions, observing how much each item sold for in U.S. dollars. When he averaged the results, he was stunned to discover that the EverQuest platinum piece was worth about one cent U.S. ? higher than the Japanese yen or the Italian lira. With that information, he could figure out how fast the EverQuest economy was growing. Since players were killing monsters or skinning bunnies every day, they were, in effect, creating wealth. Crunching more numbers, Castronova found that the average player was generating 319 platinum pieces each hour he or she was in the game ? the equivalent of $3.42 (U.S.) per hour. “That’s higher than the minimum wage in most countries,” he marvelled.
Then he performed one final analysis: The Gross National Product of EverQuest, measured by how much wealth all the players together created in a single year inside the game. It turned out to be $2,266 U.S. per capita. By World Bank rankings, that made EverQuest richer than India, Bulgaria, or China, and nearly as wealthy as Russia.
It was the seventy-seventh richest country in the world. And it didn’t even exist.

Links & Resources

Words Mean Things

The Forge :: The Provisional Glossary — a definition of terms used on the Forge.

My goal, as I stated above, is utility for others, especially those who haven’t been involved in debating these issues for years. So bear that in mind ? it’s not supposed to represent your sophisticated understanding of controversial nuances. Evaluate it from the eyes of someone who needs it.

Given that a lot of folks that read this link will be folks who haven’t spent the last five months boning up on Forge-speak, your reaction to this glossary (especially those of you getting some of it second-hand through me) would probably be very insightful — comments appreciated and I’ll pass them along as needed.

Links & Resources

Made me think of Sorcerer

Hitherby Dragons: Surrender (1 of 2)

“What are you?” Micah asks.
“A demon,” Thysiazo says.
“No horns,” Micah points out. “Also, not red or ugly.”
“No,” Thysiazo admits. “I’m more of an easy-on-the-eye evil.”

I have to recommend Hitherby again to folks, but will freely admit it’s not for everyone — the most surprising thing about it is that there’s a continuity and a story and something really going on there — you just have to read all of it to start to see it. I think it might be brilliant, but I can’t say for sure yet.

Actual Play

Sorcerer, Session Four: Lexigrams

Our fourth session of Sorcerer ran per normal on Friday. All in all, I was pleased with some of the Humanity Issues that came up as well as (what amounted to) my One Big Bang of the night.
Intro Bits:
The Premise as defined by the group is, “What would you give up for Knowledge? Who or what would you trade for power?”
Humanity is defined as Empathy (connection to your fellow man).
First session is here. Second session is here. Third Session is here.
To sum things up briefly, the game is set in the North-Boston/Cambridge area, centering around (mostly) Harvard, with some off-campus business as well (both from the tech industry and the darker side of the ‘independent erotic film’ industry). In events leading up to this point, the PCs have become aware that various sorcerers of no small skill have died mysteriously. Also, several coeds have disappeared from campus and at least one of them has since turned up in a snuff video after her disappearance — Both of the missing girls are known to at least one of the PCs. It is mid-November and the weather is getting quite bad — freezing sleet has devolved into the front end of a major blizzard. For more detail, see the session links above.
Now then, let’s see how well I can do without having taken any session notes at all (cringe)…

Links & Resources

Introducing RandomWiki

In an effort to tech myself PmWiki through… really the only way I know how — trial and error, I’ve set up RandomWiki, which will eventually be the sole repository for my gaming-related source material that isn’t actual game-log and actual-play stuff (which I think works better on a blog).
I’m still working on getting the FireflyWiki switched over to PmWiki, but FireflyWiki will never been the sort of wiki that makes full use of PmWiki’s Groups, which is, arguably, its coolest feature. By sub-dividing all my gaming stuff up and putting it into the wiki, I now have lots of clearly-delineated Groups to screw up as I teach myself the program work with.

Actual Play

The good side of bad things

Interesting quote from Mike Holmes re: Sorcerer on the Forge:

that [story] is what Sorcerer is about.
Not about character success – you’ll note that once you start playing that the dice mechanic makes characters fail in their stated conflict goal all the time, no matter how superior they are. It’s about what the characters decide to do that leads to their successes or failures.

I was just instantly reminded of the game tonight, in which Ken Osato needed to feed his demon’s Need for suffering. He did it neatly, quickly, very efficiently, and he used other people to accomplish it.
And I had him check his Humanity for it, because in this particular game, Humanity = Empathy for your fellow man, and using your fellow man “neatly, quickly, and efficiently” to elicit Suffering is simply not Empathic.
He rolled and his Humanity dropped a notch.
Question: did he fail? Personally, I think what he did perfectly illustrated the character’s goals and priorities at that point in time. Given time, he might have preferred to handle the Need in a more subtle, somewhat less directly callous way, but time was important, so Ken made a choice.
Good choice, bad choice… it was his choice, and that made it really cool, so of course it was a success.

Game Design

Game News

Green Ronin has the publishing green-light to revise and release Warhammer FRPG (my favorite ‘blood and rust’ game of all time).
That’s not the interesting part. The interesting part is that there’s some table-talk about coming out with an RPG for Warhammer 40k… the closest thing anyone’s ever done before now was Spacehulk. Color me intrigued.

Links & Resources

92 Seconds

Dawn of the Dead: Blackout
Creepy little online game.

Links & Resources

MmmmmOVE it, Maggots!

The Forge :: [Savage Worlds] X-Com

The aliens have been on Earth for nine months now, appearing suddenly in small groups, blowing stuff up, kidnapping people, disrupting communications, and in general working Earth up into a lather. Conventional forces are useless against them; the aliens project some kind of “fear wave” that can turn hardened soldiers into gibbering toddlers. Only X-Com, an elite international force, can meet the terrorists head-on. Hardened by the latest psychological techniques and equipped with the most advanced Japanese gear, X-Com troops are the best that Earth can put in the field. And finally, they have a chance to strike back: a garbled ham radio message from the mining town of Sparta, Colorado says that a UFO has crashed into an old mine behind the town. X-Com X-1–the first graduates of the X-Com training program–sortie to capture the UFO.

Two points:
1) X-Com was the best game ever. I wish I had a PC slow enough to run it on.
2) I would love this kind of game.

Links & Resources


The Complete Snow Day! ? or ? Fort Joey Must Fall! A Role Playing Game of Backyard Fantasy

Game Design

Movie Logic is not like our Earth Logic

Intuitor Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics

Saying that shards of broken glass are razor sharp is an understatement. A shattered window contains thousands of incredibly sharp edges and dagger-like points. It takes almost no force for one of these points or edges to cause a laceration. However, people in movies routinely jump through plate glass windows without receiving a single scratch.
Broken glass has at least two mechanisms for slashing a person diving through a window: its weight and its inertia. First, large heavy shards of glass can fall like guillotines, slicing off body parts. Second, when a person jumps or, even worse, drives a motorcycle through a window, the shards of glass tend to stay in place due to their inertia. The only way to move them is to apply a force. If the person’s body provides this force by pushing on the edge of a piece of glass, it can slice right through clothing, skin, and flesh. In the real world, jumping or driving through a plate glass window would be suicidal.
There are individuals who have accidentally fallen through windows without sustaining serious injuries. There are also people who have survived the Ebola virus. However, in both cases the odds are not particularly good.

Not sure if this is the thing to read before a Spycraft game…

Game Design

My Life with Drill Sergeant: Full Metal Master

Population: One: Monday Mashup #37: Full Metal Jacket
Oh, I could do something here with Sorcerer, tying everyone’s kickers into what they fear. I could do something with the “Basic Training Horror” inside of a setting like Nobilis, but there’s a really clear, perfect answer to this mashup: My Life with Master.

Full Metal Jacket is about, in part, the lengths men go to to avoid that which they cannot face. In some cases, that?s death. In some cases, it?s something else. I think I?d want the definition of the things the characters fear the most to be an integral part of character creation, in some way, because my mashup of the movie would be oriented towards catching the harrowing mood that Kubrick produced.

Well, when you’ve got a system in which the only numeric ratings relevant to characters are Fear, Self-Loathing, Weariness, Reason and Love — ladies and gentlemen you’ve got the game for this kind of spiral into darkness.

And there?s no suspense: the characters are going to wind up smack dab against the things they want so badly to avoid. The question, in this game, is what they?ll do exactly once they realize where they?re going.

To quote lumpley, the suspense doesn’t come from wondering if something’s going to happen — it comes from wondering how something’s going to happen.
That’s what My Life with Master gives you — the crushing weight of inevitability and what your reaction to it will be.

Game Design

The Forge on Batman

Not just Batman, actually, in fact…

every single character that can be referenced for this stereotype/archetype is also a Big Softy. Show him a struggling young couple, a stray animal, an old but still feisty craftsman, or anything similar, and he’ll put his blood and bones on the line to help them.
Conan. Mad Max. Batman. The whole bunch of’em, all softies. The inability to see that characterizes a large number of role-players who continually want to play vicious bad-asses who are not Softies and then wonder why no one wants to play with them, or why they never quite feel like they get the character “right.”

It explains something I’d never really tried to voice about why Batman ‘works’ in the hands of some writers and doesn’t in the hands of others, but the relation to PCs in RPGs is also a good one.

Actual Play

Sorcerer, part 3 — Sex, Lies, and Videotape

Our third session of Sorcerer, which normally runs on alternating Friday nights, was preempted by previous commitments all around. Unwilling to give up the game momentum for another two weeks, I asked the players to meet up on Thursday night instead — a shorter session due to everyone having an early morning the next day, but certainly better than a four week hiatus from session two. All in all, I’m very glad we did it and quite impressed with how much we got done.
Intro Bits:
The Premise as defined by the group is, roughly, “What would you give up for Knowledge? Who or what would you trade for power?”
Humanity = Empathy (Connection to and investment in the people in your life)
First session is here. Second session is here.
To sum things up briefly, the game is set in the North-Boston/Cambridge area, centering around (mostly) Harvard, with some off-campus business as well (both from the tech industry and the darker side of the ‘independent erotic film’ industry). In events leading up to this point, the PCs have become aware that various sorcerers of no small skill have died mysteriously. Also, several coeds have disappeared from Harvard campus and at least one of them has since turned up in a snuff video after her disappearance — Both of the missing girls are known to at least one of the PCs. It is mid-November and the weather is bad and getting worse — torrential rain is quickly freezing to sleet and the weather service predicts a major blizzard. For more detail, see the session links above.
Now then, on with the show:

Links & Resources

Start em young

DORK TOWER explains how to acclimate Katherine to gaming.
Then again…

K: Mommy, is that you? [points at miniature]
M: It is.
K: Is that Daddy? [points]
M: Yes.
K: Is that the monster? [points]
M: Yes.
K: You have to save Daddy before he dies, kay?
M: I’ll try, sweetie.

That is… more acclimated than she is already.