Thursday, October 30, 2008

Gerrymander your Game

That Republican isn't very happy that I took her Cuban base to form a new congressional district.

I don't know anything about political redistricting, but I know what I like.

Games written with a didactic purpose typically suck, but The Redistricting Game is loads of fun. You play a political consultant assigned with redrawing the political districts so one party (or both, see below) can screw the system.

The Redistricting Game makes good use of the gamer learning curve. To beat each level, you have to learn the system better. The better you learn the system, the more you know about the issue. Perhaps teaching a new generation of gamers how to gerrymander effectively isn't the best way to champion election reform, but the game does make its point. On the last level you have to redistrict without any polling data at all.

Stuff I learned from this game:

  • Redistricting is fun, but scary

  • Bipartisan redistricting is really creepy

  • No matter how you redistrict, Vox Populi is never satisfied

  • Unless you put her in charge of the non-partisan redistricting commission

  • Proportional representation is a highly malleable concept

This is Vox Populi. Every time we redistrict she writes a mean newspaper article about how unfair we are.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What Class was Saint Paul?

When I was in junior high school and we made games, our trick was to make character classes of whatever we thought were the important types of people in our world. When we made our Teenage Role Playing Game (TARP), the classes reflected high school stereotype of rocker, skater, jock, and nerd. When we made a science fiction game it was scientist, soldier, pilot, and space knight.

In Principia, the game I’m working on now, the character classes embody cultural ideals linked to art, science, warfare, and religion. But how do you represent a big idea like Christianity or Reason as a character class without trivializing it?

I’m working on an idea right now that I’m having a lot of fun with. Each position (that’s analogous to a class in Principia) has a matrix that links a representative situation with a narration and a consequence. Take a cultural group with a strong cultural ideal, create a matrix, and I hope you get a potentially explosive terrain for role-play. Here’s what this might look like for the first Christians:

In this situation:My character can:And the GM decides:
I act selflesslyWork miraclesWho is incited to jealousy, anger, or hatred against me
Invoke Jesus’ nameHeal the sick and infirmWhat they expect from me
Suffer blame, calumny, or violence for Jesus’ sakeConvert someoneWhat their friends, family, or compatriots think of that

When I play a character in that early Church, the rules tell me exactly how I can influence the world when I act selfless, invoke Jesus’ name, or suffer for his sake. The consequences of influencing the world are new challenging situations for my character. I make enemies, create expectations, and people start talking about what has been done.

But Principia is not about the Early Church, it’s about the Renaissance. Here’s what
Alchemy looks like in the current draft of Principia:

In this situation:My character can:And the GM decides:
I work in my labI can produce drugs, explosive, or other reagentsDeclare a side effect of those items
Use alchemical reagentsBlow things upDecide the collateral damage
Forge a relationship with a characterDiscover their motivationsWhat form the relationship takes
Interact with someone whose motivations I understandUrge them to an appropriate course of actionHow it changes the relationship

Alchemists are mercurial characters. They’re always changing the world around them and suffering the consequences. Also, they can blow things up, and they never have to roll the dice for it. A nice fringe benefit that.

Monday, October 27, 2008

For the Love of Dungeons is Published!

I just published a book of dungeon maps, For the Love of Dungeons. Go ahead and check it out!

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