Friday, October 28, 2005

Administrative: Forum for Further Discussion (?)

EDIT: Let me note right up front that I am not advocating replacing the blog with a forum.

Back when we started this blog over three (!) years ago, it wasn't long before we moved to a forum on the ground that that would make discussions easier to have and manage. The forum worked pretty well, though I came to feel that the blog worked better as a place to make our ideas visible to others, while the forum was better for the dedicated readers and contributors to hold discussions.

We used the forum for close to two years before the webhost was hacked and we ultimately lost almost the entire forum contents, and so the blog came to be revived. The blog's been going well, and we've had some pretty active discussions in the comments. But comments are subject to getting spammed, or deleted over time; and a forum does allow for an easier way to manage discussions and reply to specific comments. So we (John, Tony, Brandon and I) have been talking once again about having a forum available to hold further discussion, when people want to do so.

John's main concern is the risk of repeating the loss of the forum to hackers. I have a forum (linked above in the title) on Delphi, which is a large commercial forum site supported by advertising and paid memberships. Being a commercial venture, it's fairly secure from hackers; it's occasionally had hardware failures bring down the forums instead, but even then they've got massive database backups, so I've only ever seen availability, not content, lost in such events. My forum has been rather quiet for a long time, and I have a few unassigned folders available, so I'm willing to open up one or two for our purposes.

Points for consideration:
  • You must sign up with a membership to post; guests can only read.
  • Basic membership is free, but basic members see the advertising. There is an option to buy set numbers of ad-free pageviews.
  • Basic members can only post straight text, no formatting (HTML). Advanced and Plus (both paying) members can include HTML. (Plus members who use Windows and IE get those built-in formatting buttons.)
  • Basic members can have moderator rights, although not the fullest level; as the forum owner and also a paying member, I would have full and final control.
  • Someone would have to remember to add links between the blog and the forum when a discussion thread is started (ideally the person starting the discussion, but I can monitor that too).
  • My forum URL name ("beetsareyummy") cannot be changed; we'd have to start a wholly new forum if we wanted something like "attacksofopportunity".

Feel free to click the heading link and check out my forum. Let me know in the comments what you think of this proposal. If anyone has an alternate forum suggestion, suggest away.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Monsters Outside the Polis

Once upon a time, we posted ideas for settings in which games could take place. Here's a setting idea I've teased out of a few different elements. The core concept of monsters as sinful humans is one I had several years ago before moving to Seattle, but somehow I left that notebook behind (Milo, do you still have that small leather-bound travel notebook I got from the Faire?). I'm drawing on the ancient Greeks for some setting details, but it wouldn't have to be set or limited to that historical/mythical time and place. Obviously there's some Dogs in the Vineyard overlap/inspiration as well.

Why are there so many monsters that are part human? One might argue that they represent aspects of ourselves that we find monstrous: desires, passions, even reason run rampant. In this setting, that is in fact how monsters originate. When a person goes too far in pursuit of his desires, he is transformed outwardly to reflect his inner monstrousness.

There are two kinds of monsters: monsters of passion and monsters of reason. A monster of passion has a human body but an animal head, such as a minotaur. A monster of reason always has a human face or head, such as a sphinx, and may even have a human torso and arms, such as a mermaid or centaur. Monsters of passion are not capable of speech, but make their desires plain through their actions. Monsters of reason are capable of speech and will quite readily explain their desires; however, they cannot be reasoned with as such and shown the error of their ways.

A monster of passion is driven to sate a bodily desire: for food, for sex, for rest (slothfulness), even for sensation. A monster of reason is driven to sate more abstract desires: for knowledge, for power, for glory/fame/reverence (worship), for possessions. Certain monsters already have historical associations: sphinxes with knowledge (riddles), satyrs with sexual lust, minotaurs with bloodthirst. Other monsters might require research into the symbology of different animals, or of course you could just make up something.

Monsters pose a dual threat to other people: they prey directly upon humans, but worse, their very proximity brings out the worst in others. Usually people are afflicted by the same desire as the monster - think of Bacchus inspiring the wine-and-lust-crazed Maenads - but their presence can also trigger the transformation in those who are already far gone in their own desires; only in this sense do monsters breed monsters. Thus, it is important that monsters be slain as soon as possible, lest they destroy the polis (city-state).

The characters, then, are monster-hunters - or heroes, if you will. Their goal is to discover the monster that afflicts the polis, determine its weakness, and destroy it. Naturally, as supernatural manifestations of evil, monsters have some immunity to normal weaponry and require something special to be slain, though that need not be a conventional weapon - in the classic case of the Sphinx, knowing the answer to its riddle was enough. Even with the proper bane, the characters must still be careful that they do not get caught and devoured, or worse, corrupted.

This probably could be run simply as a Dogs variant: the Pride, or hubris, of an important figure in the polis would cause some injustice, and the appearance of the monster would be the visible result, standing in for "demonic attacks." Those of you interested in that setup should compare with "Thunder in the Vineyard", an ancient Greece setting posted in the Forge. However, I do like the idea that the monster actually is the source of the evil and the true threat that must be confronted, not just a symptom of a regular person's failing; call it a more heroic take on the Dogs setup. Perhaps there's another game system that would be better suited, or perhaps it requires some new rules.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Real emotional range in an RPG

I was just watching an episode of Angel and one of Protoganists died (for about a minute.) A couple of scenes later, he is with his girlfriend who demonstrates anger and grief at almost being abandoned. It was a scene I could not imagine ever actually being acted out in an RPG. Described yes (My character is filled with grief) but sitting around the living room with my 4 buddies and almost breaking down in tears with performed grief, well ... no.

Maybe that is my own failing, but it seems like I would be embarrased to be in the room if if actually happened. Is this is just my personal story arc or is there an "acceptable" or expected emotional range that we expect from a RPG?

Gamist Challenge

I'm linking this mostly for reference sake. You're all already reading Deep in the Game, right? Right.

Anyway, Chris is talking about some ways to make gamist challenge work well, and it's all good. Here are the first two links -- I'll add others if he continues this series.
This is right up my alley. My game project (after Stranger Things) is gonna be all about this kind of thing.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Roleplaying Theory for Dummies

This is it. Read this one short page of very short essays, and you pretty much have everything you need to know about RPG theory (by way of the Forge). Start at the top, and work your way down.

Chris also says you need to play 2 of the following: InSpectres, Universalis, Primetime Adventures, Dogs in the Vineyard. He's right. I'll also add Trollbabe (or Stranger Things) and The Shadow of Yesterday to that mix of choices.

There, all done? That wasn't so bad, was it?

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Serenity in the Verse

I hate to keep talking about this right now, but if you want to see what Firefly in the Vineyard should like, then go see Serenity. It was ... awe inspiring to me.