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Showing posts from October, 2009

Game Mechani(sm) of the Week #42: Escalation

I've just read through Elizabeth Shoemaker's Mist Robed Gate.

You've got to love a game where over a third of the text is a filmography of great martial arts movies, recipes for Asian cuisine to eat during play, and a quick guide to tea.

But those aren't mechanisms.

The game has at it's core, a sequence referred to as "the knife ritual". It's dramatic, evocative and a little dangerous...It uses a real knife.

The knife can be in a range of states, it begins sheathed and covered by a cloth when the tension is low. It becomes uncovered when things get a little tense. It becomes unsheathed when things are drawing to a head. It is stabbed into someone's character sheet when the edge of danger has been crossed and something nasty occurs. Character successes can increase or decrease the escalation of the knife, depending on their actions in game.

It's symbolic, but that symbolism is pretty clear and obvious.

I tried to do the same with Quincunx, using a se…

Game Mechani(sm) of the Week #41: Making Player's Decisions Matter

At Gencon Oz, I was reminded why I have a dislike of many traditional roleplaying games. I have to admit here that it's probably not the game that's at fault, it's probably badly written adventures or modules, and bad GMs.

I really enjoy the L5R setting. I've got a thing for Japanese culture after studying martial arts for a few years and over-indulging in manga/anime and other forms of Japanese culture. Last year (2008) we played in a game called Heroes of Rokugan twice, once as a tabletop and once as a freeform. Leah and I didn't get much of a say in how the adventures went, we were just two lowly ranked characters amongst a group who were all willing to take things as they came. We came to the table with no preconcieved notions, and were willing to take a back seat to enjoy the narrative developed by the group.

During a couple of occasions we knew that our characters had abilities that might have been useful to push the narrative in the direction that it wanted to…

Game Mechani(sm) of the Week #40: Wide Games

Again, not really a mechanism, but more a style of game that has some distinct differences to tabletop roleplaying.

Wide games are fairly simple and most kids instinctively play this style of game..."Hide and Seek" is an example, as is "Cops and Robbers". But wide games tend to apply a type of ruling mechanism into the game, rather than just having them degenerate into arguments. The game of "Murder" commonly played on university campuses is another form of wide game.

There are some distinct similarities between wide gaming and live roleplaying, and I understand a bit of historical precedent between the two. But I think that the field of roleplaying can probably learn a bit more from this distinct evolutionary gaming path.

If you're still not sure what I mean by wide gaming... here's an excerpt from a website.

'Wide Games' include any game requiring or making use of any large area of land. Provided you stick to a few simple rules they are ver…

Game Mechani(sm) of the Week #39: Card Suits

One of the quickest and easiest methods I've encountered for integrating a mechanism with a setting is through the use of card suits.
I've encountered this a couple of times over the last week, so it struck me as a good idea for this week's mechanism.
I'll illustrate the mechanism through a number of examples...
First, I used the mechanism myself when I wrote The Eighth Sea. In this case I paired the suits to different types of actions that can be taken by the characters. If a character manages to draw a card with a suit matching the action type, they gain an advantage when performing that type of action. It's a pirate oriented game so I gave the actions piratey names: Thumpin', Talkin', Thinkin' and Feelin'.
A few players have instantly gotten the right vibe from the game just by seeing these terms on the character sheet.
Second, I saw the mechanism used in the seminar/panel feedback that I posted in my last blog entry. The game discussed focuses on the…

Game Design Panels

One of my regrets about Gencon Oz 2009, was the fact that I didn't get to participate in any of the seminars or panels...that was actually one of the things I enjoyed about Gencon Oz 2008.

Still it's good to see that there are panels and seminars dedicated to game design running at conventions elsewhere in the world.

V-Con Design Panel

Now I'm just waiting to see (or hear) some of the information from those Gencon Oz panels that I missed.

Hint. Hint. (for those who might be reading...)

The heady days of the Mid 1990s, Ukiyo Zoshi and a rant

I think the mid 1990s will always be my golden age.

I had just left high school and was starting to truly forge an identity of my own.

I had gotten a job and was earning my own keep for the first time.

The cold war was ending and the feeling of hope in the world was echoing my own feeling of freedom and the chance for a better life.

Nirvana was showing the world that you didn't need make-up and big hair to play good rock music. And you didn't need to spend far too much money on film clips to get into the top 40.

White Wolf's Storyteller system was showing the roleplaying community that games could focus on story rather than a quirky set of skills and abilities (but it still included these anyway).

I had a good core group of friends, and it felt like we'd all stay friends forever...

I could go on...but that's not the point of my post.

Around this time, a friend and I developed a game called Ukiyo Zoshi (translated from Japanese it roughly means "Tales of the Floating W…

What would I be doing if I didn't roleplay? (Pt 1)

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Brigaki Djili: The Big Three (or six or more)...

I've commented on the Power 19.
I'm deliberately not going to generate one for Brigaki Djili at this stage.
But I will look at the Big Three...three questions that help to focus a game design. The problem is, that I've encountered at least two different versions of "The Big Three".
What is your game about?How does your game do this?How does your game encourage / reward this?I'm told that respected game designer John Wick likes to add.. How does you game make this fun?Another version of "The Big Three" uses the first three questions of the Power 19, and often implies that these are the most valuable responses for the 19 questions. What is your game about?What do the characters do?What does the GM do (if there is one)?So that makes six different questions for "The Big Three", each of them reflects something distinctly different about the game without delving to deep into specifics. Probably a good series of points to start. It's also useful t…