Sunday, July 31, 2005

Gods in the Vineyard

Orkgrrrl and I went to see Das Rheingold last night, and it was very execellent. I've been reading Dogs in the Vineyard lately, and naturally the two mashed together into a game idea.

Gods in the Vineyard: you're a god. Not one of the big-time gods, mind you, and even the big-time gods aren't so big-time that they don't need to worry about giants, titans, and their own foolishness bringing them down. You're demi-gods, and as such, you're more able to mingle with the panmythopoeicon of gods, powers, spirts, dwarves, and the like.

Relationships: you're a god. That means you can have a family relationship with ANY person, power, or even thing. That river that's flooding the Kingdom of Bynd? It's your second cousin.

Conflicts: look at your Greek tragedies, they're FULL of nice juicy conflicts. The King killed his first daughter to assuages the wind god. Now his wife, who's related to the goddess of the hearth who incidentally has a beef with the wind god is pushing the wife to do the husband in. The head god, the god of law, doesn't want any part in this. One the one hand, he doesn't want to cross the wind gods right to demand sacrifice. On the other hand the wife has a perfectly valid legal claim. His hands are tied.

So he sends in some demi-gods to clean up the mess.

OK, now that's out of my system so I can back to working on Magicians of England.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Trollbabe and Alternative Maps

Earlier this evening John, Tony and I were talking about games. John was describing one of his favorite aspects of Trollbabe. The final step in creating your character is to "Pick a destination simply by checking out the map, because it’s up to you. It may or may not be the same as the one chosen by another player." One thing John pointed out was that although the game provides a map, it doesn't actually say you have to use that one, you can use any map to your liking: a neighborhood map will work just as well as a continental map.

Immediately I thought of using a different kind of map: instead of a geographical map, you could use a network system map, and play a TRON-inspired variation of the game. But then it occurred to me that you could use other abstract relational diagrams as well. For example, you might use an organizational chart, and position your characters among the departments of a large corporation. But the idea I said first out loud was the one that John and Tony most liked: you could use a diagram showing the relationships between different TV shows, such as "All In The Family" and its spinoffs, or if you're really ambitious, the vast "shared reality" of TV shows that somehow crossover or connect to "St. Elsewhere". Each player points to a show and says, "my character starts there."

(Incidentally, don't miss Milo's completely unrelated post below this one. I'm posting right after he did, so for those of you who might only read the most recent post, scroll down a bit.)

Designing And Nuttin' Else

What would it take to be a full time RPG designer? Would it even be deisirable? Why or why not? How many such jobs are out there already, and is there room for more? A lot more?

Link goes to WotC Career page.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Where's the Indie Game Success Story?

I just posted something over on my blog about marketing and Indie games, to the effect of I think indie game makers need to learn more about marketing.

It raises a good question: are indie games ready to make a mainstream breakthrough? Greg Stolze says that four cents a word ain't bad for a game writer. If you're publishing and indie game, does your ambition have to be a rather meager break even? If not, then what are indie game makers doing wrong?

Edit OK, as John points out, there are plenty of Indie game success stories. Nevertheless, I think there's a huge potential out there for greater success.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Play like you MEAN it

Check out this beautiful rant from TonyLB:

Play like you MEAN it!


Monday, July 18, 2005

Survey on the Styles of Games

Purpose of this post: To put together a “clean” set of survey questions that will be useful in determining what people (“Gamers” and “Non Gamers” alike) want in a game. One of the difficulties in creating a good survey is to have it speak objectively and not allow the writer’s biases creep into the questions.

Purpose of the Survey: I am then going to try to define the various types of Gaming Styles, based on the answers to this survey. Using that information I will try attempt to mix and match the styles to the various systems that currently exist. I am currently defining Gaming as Table Top, LARP and Board/Card games. I am not including sports or video games.

I am thinking about starting with essay style questions to allow a surveyed to answer in free form before they are boxed in by multiple choice questions later on. I am still deciding on whether to include the “which of these two is more like you”: IE

I want to be rewarded with more power.
I want to be rewarded with more options.

Any advice or suggestions people want to give me would be welcome.

Friday, July 15, 2005

"Realism" and "Fairness" . . .

... and the great bugaboo of Gamer Think. Ron Edwards is on his high horse over at the Forge, and god bless him, he's kicking ass. Check out this post of his about Social Contract and the way character abilities work in games. It's great stuff.

I'd also like to quote Chris (bankuei) from some posts of his on Matt's game blog.

Bankuei wrote:
"Unfortunately, there is not a single mainstream game that solidly lays out the idea of framing conflict outside of physics (even cinematic, anime, cartoon physics). We have zero mainstream examples to point people to in terms of reconsidering that resolution, and more importantly, conflicts, might be about something other than who can hit who, move faster, or carry more.

Regardless of how people in general feel about the various bits of the Big Model, [GNS theory] its most useful function is pointing out the differences and connections between system, people at the table, and imagined events- which is totally necessary for the purposes of understanding how to emulate something other than physics. It's utterly vital to break the myth that the imagined events "are real" or even need to be "realistic" in any sense. Once people recognize that it is the people at the table who create, and control the rules of creation- then it becomes open as any other art form."

Monday, July 11, 2005

When are Puzzles Fun?

They're a staple of the dungeoncrawl, yet most players agree they're annoying, and it's a rare GM who likes creating them. Over on Matt's Blog, Chris commented that "9 out of 10 time", puzzles aren't fun". I tend to agree.

So when are they fun?
Would RPGs be better without them?
How do you use them in your campaigns?

RT, I *know* I've had fun solving puzzles in your games, so I know you've got something to contribute here.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Danger Patrol Geomorphs

John's blog has a discussion of Geomorphs for his game Danger Patrol, under construction. John and I have talked quite a bit about the geography of Rocket City, and map drawing is a hobby of mine, so I couldn't resist running out and starting some Rocket City geomorphs right away. So, without further ado, I present a standard for Rocket City Geomorphs. I invite anyone who wants to contribute to do so.

Rocket City Geomorphs

  • Geomorph dimensions = 4 in square
  • Walkways and monorails can link to other tiles in the center of each side.
  • Recommended walkway size is 1/4 wide.
  • All monorails must terminate in a station or a block at the tile edge to preserve geomorphism.
  • Monorail tracks (two-ways) are 1/8 in. wide.
  • Monorail stations should be marked with an "M".

Includes a sidebar showing the goemorph in profile

  • Sidebar dimensions = 1 5/8 in. tall x 5/8 in. wide set back 1/8 in from the corner.
  • Main walkway level is 1 in from sidebar top (5/8 inch from sidebar bottom).

Any other suggestions?

I'm going to do some hand drawn tiles just for fun (since computer art is not my forte).

Maybe John or Phil cold provide a brief intro to Rocket City in case some other people want to participate who are unfamiliar with the setting.

Here's my first test geomorph showing two monorail stations, a tower with walkway and a subtower.


EDIT (John): Here's my first stab at a sample sheet, based on Tony's design. It's not even close to done, but you can see where it's headed. I put two connection points on each side of a tile, to allow for more crazy monorail tracks.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Administrivia - Trackbacks

I've taken the liberty of adding trackbacks to this blog.

A trackback is a link between blog posts. Basically, when someone makes a blog post that references your post, they create a trackback, and a link to their post automatically appears in the trackback section of yours. It lets other people build on your conversation.

For example, in this post, Phil references John's game design blog The Mighty Atom. That would be the perfect time to use a trackback. The thing is, Philos can't do that because John's blog uses Blogger and Blogger doesn't support trackbacks natively.

Since Blogger doesn't support trackbacks I've implemented Haloscan trackbacks for Attacks. I created an account at Haloscan specifically for this blog. I'll be sending the account details to all the contributors I have addresses for by email. This doesn't mean we're using Haloscan for comments, only for trackbacks.

Over the last year of getting more and more involved in blogging, I've begun to see that trackbacks are key to building up the conversation. The fact that blogger doesn't support them hampers conversation. We're building a great community around this blog and others. I recommend that everybody add trackbacks to their blogs. It will make it much easier for people to build on what you're saying. Haloscan trackbacks can be implemented with Blogger, are free, and you don't have to switch to Haloscan commenting to use them.

How to use Trackback

To create a trackback to Attacks, you'll need to log on at Haloscan, either using your own login or the one I send you. For more info on trackbacks and how to use them, check out How to use Trackback at Haloscan.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Explaining the game

Over on his own game design blog The Mighty Atom, John has posted a rant about True20, a new product that apparently purports to be designed for role-playing newbies, and to be "narrative" in style. John focuses on how the product alludes to the objectives of the game and the methods to achieve them without ever actually explaining what those are.

We had a thread on the dearly-departed forum about how people learn to role-play, in which we looked at the random sampling of games I happen to own and discovered that only the 1978 "red box" edition of Dungeons & Dragons actually set down clear objectives for the players and clear explanations for what you do in actual play. It would seem that our hobby is still so insular, it doesn't occur to most designers that they need to explain these things the same way that Monopoly for example does so.

(Posting this in the off chance there are people reading this blog who aren't also reading John's.)

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Itinerant Exorcists

EDIT: It looks like the game I'm describing is pretty much Dogs in the Vineyard, with an emphasis on the supernatural and a setting in the ancient world (real or fantasy). Oh well, guess I should've posted the idea last year, when I started thinking about it.

Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to pronounce the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, "I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches." Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?" And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, mastered all of them, and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

Acts 18:13-16

This passage has intrigued me for a while; in particular, the idea of "itinerant exorcists." It's popular in both fantasy fiction and fantasy RPGs to give demons and devils physical form, and usually the threat they represent is one of physical death and destruction. Possession and spiritual corruption from within don't seem to come up very much. Neither does the role of exorcist; sure, your priests/clerics/wizards/sorcerors often have some spells relating to summoning or banishing demons, but I'm not aware of a game that includes the specific role of exorcist, let alone centers around that. (Feel free to enlighten me in the comments.)

You could definitely build a campaign, in D&D/d20 or your system of choice, around a group of itinerant exorcists. Given the way d20 is set up, you'd probably have to design a custom class and spell list, as the spells for dealing with demons are typically higher level, and that wouldn't really fit the setting. (It's worth noting that historically in the Catholic Church, exorcist was a minor order, below that of priest.) That begs the question, is there a new game to be built around this idea, either adapting an existing system or inventing a new one?

  • There are evil spirits, or demons, that possess people.
  • Possessed people are violent, irrational, and a danger to themselves and to the community.
  • Itinerant exorcists travel the land, using prayers and incantations to cast out the demons.
  • If the faith or knowledge of the exorcists isn't strong enough, the possessed person can overpower the exorcists.
  • Perhaps demons can jump into an overpowered exorcist and do greater harm there?
  • Perhaps over time casting out demons takes a spiritual toll on the exorcist and weakens them against demon attack?

The game would need a goal. You could go around casting out demons until all the players get bored, but it'd be better to have an endgame situation. The game could also use some form of complication: the obvious one, of course, is determining whether a person is possessed or just sick (psychologically or physically), but that's a modern viewpoint. Better to go with the ancient concept that people can be clearly possessed, and locate the complication elsewhere. One suggestion I've made is that demons may be able to jump into the exorcists. Another might be competing groups of exorcists, possibly representing different gods (or different views) - the quote above takes place after the followers of Christ have first started being called "Christians" rather than Jews. Another might be that some possessed people are valuable in some way to the community, such as being oracles.

Finally, I apologize in advance for any evangelist spam, or contrariwise any anti-Christian/anti-Semitic spam, this post might generate.