Saturday, April 29, 2006

"Deep In the Game" Gamehacks Contest: D&D

Paging Brandon...
"Gamehack any edition of D&D with a new set of rules which change any one, or more, of the following:

- Changes Creative Agenda
- Changes tactical emphasis of play
- Changes how players can input
- Produces methods to improvise opposition

Email the details in 2 pages or less, (font not smaller than 10 point, smarty-pants)."

Full details over on Chris's blog; the header above is linked directly to the relevant post. Deadline's May 30.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Shadows Of White Wolf

So I'm trying to adapt The Shadows Of Yesterday (first edition) system to the White Wolf:Mage scenario. I'm actually surprised by how little work I think I'll have to do, provided I keep a lot of the Magic System as is and just change the name of the "Spheres" to "Secrets".

This goes on to raise the question, is making a game specifically to lure players comfortable with the Legacy Systems (d20, White Wolf, Warhammer, etc.) over to the "indie" side of things a valid design goal? If it isn't, is it because it's simply bound to fail? Trying to please everybody so often seems to please nobody.

Have any games tried to bridge the gap?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Magicians of England Actual Play Report

Last week I ran Magicians of England Playtest #2 with Pat and Phil. Magicians of England has been previously discussed here. I was trying out a new, more streamlined plot twist mechanic, which worked out pretty well, and we also solved some of my problems with how to incorporate magic, which was awesome. I’ve included mechanics notes in square brackets.

Pat played retired Colonel Eustace Beerbellows, renowned war hero and eccentric quack whose ambition is to become more rich and famous. Phil played Byron Burns, idealist poet and champion of the common folk. I played Marcus Beauthorpe, wealthy book collector who seeks to cure his obesity through magic.

We also had to formulate some theories about magic, to wit: Magic must be concentrated to work, Magic can be done with a rare flower from the forest, and using Magic may incur the wrath of the faeries.

Pat set the first scene with Col. Beerbellows vigorously directing two lackeys to dig up the soil in the Oxford public park while Byron Burns looks on from the window of the library. A group of constables appears on horseback demanding to know what is going on [plot twist!]. Pat creates a character – the chief of the constables, who also turns out to be a former member of his regiment, and wins the plot twist, narrating how the constables chip in and help Beerbellows deface a public park for Magic and the Empire!

Phil set scene 2, and chose to have his character trekking through the woods in search of the rare flower (Q. Arcanthus) that is known to have magical properties. As a plot twist, I threw in that Wilhemmena (one of Beerbellows’ lackeys) was following him with intent of stealing his notes so Beerbellows could find the flower for himself. At that moment, a well-dressed gentleman appears and begins questioning an astonished Byron as to his activities. As an additional plot twist, Phil throws in that the man is indeed a faerie, and he intends to steal away both the flower and its possessor. After some bidding over the resolution of this plot twist, it is decided that the faerie may only steal a person away if that person has found the magical Q. Arcanthus, so the faerie (now named Lucien), who has that very flower in his lapel, offers it to Byron, who takes the bait. It also emerges that Lucien is quite a powerful magician, but his Magic rarely works as intended. The other plot twist is resolved with Wilhelmmena returning to report these events to Beerbellows. In the “tying up loose ends” phase, Pat narrates that Beerbellows will be spending some time at the police station explaining himself to the constabulary.

Scene 3 is mine, so I narrate that as Marcus is tending his garden, Byron and the Faerie appear from nowhere. There’s quite a bit of dialog and back-and-forth from which it emerges that the faerie believes this house is actually his own, with some humor as Lucien and Marcus both attempt to invite one another into the same home for tea. The dialog winds around as it’s clear that no one is exactly sure what should happen next in the scene, so someone interrupts and makes the situation into a plot twist, stating that Lucien is minded to disappear to the faerie realm and take the house with him. There was a cool moment in here when Pat spent some chips to narrate a few things about Faeries into the world, that they consider all of England their property, and that they prefer to alter the world to match their opinions (by magic) rather than change their opinions (that’s not how he put it, that’s the best way I can find to phrase it).

Now that the plot twist is set up, Phil decided to resolve it, stating that Byron, who has fulfilled the requirements for Magic, is going to use a spell from his notebook to reveal the true owner of the house. After some bidding he succeeds, but Pat latches onto the risk “incur the wrath of the faeries”, to narrate that both Marcus and Byron have won a bitter enemy in Lucien.

This seemed to be a good point to wrap things up. Everyone agreed that the plot twists worked well, but that Magic needed to be more streamlined. We decided to meet up and continue this storyline, and see how it goes with one more person.

NOTE The playtest packet is almost ready. I am doing some final editing tonite, so I should have rules ready for people to play with themselves very soon. Please let me know if you have a group who are willing to try this out, and I will send you a copy of the rules as they currently stand.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

City of Lost Wolves

Check it: John Harper'a RPG Stranger Things goes all steampunk in this actual play report by Bailywolf from the Forge.

"... riffing a background for the character, we came up with Cogspace- the stereoscopic shadow-play virtual reality compu-mechanical system running through the City. When someone says 'bandwidth' they mean the width of the actual band running the clanking and clattering Babbage mainframe in the basement- whirring belts, cables, and pneumatics."

Monday, April 17, 2006

Journal of Boardgame Design just put a board game design blog, Journal of Boardgame Design, up as one of the Blogs of Note. It's a pretty insightful read. Personally, I've gravitated towards more boardgame-ish mechanics in my RPGs and I see a lot in this blog that is helpful.

Friday, April 14, 2006

A Feminist Gaming Manifesto

Matt Wilson is my hero.

No, this doesn't fit with the charter of this blog, but it's important stuff. I know we have a lot of readers in the gaming blog-world, and I think this deserves wider exposure. Check it out. Talk about it.

UPDATE: Part Two of the manifesto is up now:

Good stuff!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Man of Science, Man of Faith

I just spent the last two weeks watching the first season of Lost. I’ve always been a huge fan of drama where the nature of reality itself is something of a mystery: Lost, X-files, Foucault’s Pendulum, Kafka, Marquez, Illuminati, and so on. So I started thinking, what’s a good set of mechanics for existential mystery drama?

The characters’ lives are entangled with the unexplained. Things happen around them that should not happen. The characters struggle to fulfill the deep inner needs that drive them and to make sense of a world that seems to thwart their efforts to come to grips with it.

Each character has one role, two pillars, and three drives.

The role is a short descriptor of their place in society and defines what the character is automatically good at. Examples include: doctor, lawyer, spoiled brat, rich kit, slut, fugitive, cop. A character is automatically good at everything that their role requires.

The pillars are two core beliefs that define how that character interprets the world, one about people (or themselves), and one about reality. Examples include: there’s a scientific explanation for everything, everyone is just out for their own good, some things can’t be explained at all, I have a special destiny, people should always do what’s right, there are standards of morality that must be observed.

The drives are things that drive that character forward. Examples include: I must find out why my father disappeared, I must try to save everyone, I always look out for myself, trust no one, cling to the one’s you love, never give up an advantage. A character is always more likely to succeed when they do something that accords with their drives. In fact, if no one’s opposing them, they always succeed in following their drives.

In a conflict, a character may invoke one of their pillars for a bonus in the conflict. If the character succeeds in the conflict, they get to interpret events, or create some clue to the deeper meaning of them, that matches their pillar. If they fail in the conflict, their pillar becomes “shaken”. A shaken pillar can still be invoked. In fact, a shaken pillar provides an even greater bonus. But if a shaken pillar is invoked and a the conflict is lost, the character is incapacitated until the next major scene break.

When a player becomes incapacitated, they have the option of resolving one of their pillars or drives. This means that a pillar or drive is removed and replaced with a new one, based on the events that led to the character being incapacitated.

When a player wins a conflict, they can interpret the events that precipitated the conflict or offer a clue as to the deeper significance of events. The scope of this narration is closely defined by the conflict itself, however and limited to one fact of importance to the character.

The game also defines some area of overarching mystery that is not open to narration (though it can be hinted at) in the scope of a session of scene. The reason for this is simple: this game is about the characters and their conflicts, not about the unexplained events that surround them.

This game might or might not have a GM, but in any case, the GM’s job is to create situations where the characters’ drives put them into conflict and to give them events to interpret using their pillars.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The AoO Wiki is almost ready

Hey all. I have finally managed to install MediaWiki on my domain and have started to set it up for an AoO wiki. However, before I post the link, I am hoping someone here has some experience with MediaWiki and can help me both secure it and set it up a little better. It is basically all just default settings and I suspect that there are important anti-spam and what not things that I need to do before releasing it to the general public.

Please email me at faltor $ Hotmail $ com with any suggestions, or post comments here. It is running off of SQL database with PHP and PHP is not my thing. Thanks for the help.