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Showing posts from May, 2010

Unexploited Resource #1: Dominos

Dice.

They're symbolic of roleplaying games. Love it or hate it, even if you've played a dozen games that use other randomising mechanisms, everyone who is aware of the hobby associates it with colourful polyhedra.

Don't get me wrong, I like dice. They are a convenient form of number generation. Personally I like cards better, because there is more flexibility to them and you can create some more interesting effect with the art of drawing cards. But dice have been done to death...and cards have had their run in recent years as well.

Even miniature battlegames are starting to get some good card lovin'.

As an aside, someone suggested a roleplaying game based on the card driven miniatures skirmish game "Malifaux"...I wish I could find it, but there was also a post on the Malifaux forums where a gamers says that all RPGs "MUST" use dice, otherwise it's just not an RPG (I'm paraphrasing a bit here because I can't find that post).

So, besides dice …

Ingenuity

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This would have to be a moment from the type of RPG I usually run...

Prisoner Makes Gun from Match Sticks

Vector Theory #22: Call of Cthulhu's Sanity System

There are things man was not meant to know.

Unless you know these things, you'll never be able to confront the eldritch horrors of the unknown.

The more you know of them, the more distant you become from the rest of humanity.

The more distant you become from the rest of humanity, the more chance you'll get locked up as a lunatic, or simply break down in a heap of anguish.

There it is, the basic premise behind the works of HP Lovecraft, and the core ideas behind the mechanisms of Sanity in Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu.

Onto this raw driving force was tacked a percentile skill system and a bunch of subsystems that I've rarely seen in use. But the core is what drives a game of Call of Cthulhu, whether it's a single session witch hunt, or a growing symphony of horror.

The Sanity system integrates into the percentile skill system, I wouldn't say that it dovetails into it (it seems a little clunky after 30 years), but it still works.

Like most games of the era, it used 3d6 to…

A Renaissance in Roleplaying Game Theory

For the last few years that I've been active on the independent gaming forums, I've seen a lot of people complaining about GNS and the Big Model, but no-one seemed to have a decent counter-proposal.

Just lots of sniping.

But happily, it looks like there now are a few people interested in taking the patterns of thought in new directions. There's a few interesting threads over on Story Games about dungeon design, the existence of Simulationism, even a Creative Agenda Mash-Up.

There's a lot of stuff to go through and most of it isn't for the faint-of-heart, or gaming illiterate. It will take a while to translate a lot of these ideas through my vector theory, but over the next few weeks I'll be giving it a try.

In general though, it's good to see people actually thinking about this stuff again.

Bunraku Nights

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1km1kt is running a Cyberpunk Revival Contest.

And my entry for the contest is a deadly game of intrigue called Bunraku Nights.

Here's some images I've created for it.













Special thanks have to go to Crystal over at Cryoflesh for allowing me to use some of the photography on her site for the basis of a few pieces.

Vector Theory #21: An Alternative look at Task Resolution and Conflict Resolution

I was just driving home this morning and something struck me....not like the road rage incident I was involved in a couple of weeks ago, when an aggressive idiot got out of his car and broke my nose...I mean more of a metaphysical striking.

I previously referred to a definition of task resolution and conflict resolution by Eero T. According to my interpretation of this definition in the context of Vector Theory, a scene is a cluster of nodes (decision points). The narraton heads into this cluster like a ball being shot into a pinball machine. It passes through some obstacles, and it's deflects of others to twist the story in a new direction. Once the narraton emerges from the cluster, there are a variety of directions it could end up heading (depending on how the conflict was resolved and the outcome of that resolution).

The resolution of a task is reflected by the narraton interacting with a specific node. The resolution of a conflict is reflected by the narraton's overall inte…

When do you roll the dice?

Interesting Blog Post from John Harper.

This is exactly the point that I'm trying to rationalise now regarding Vector Theory.

The AGE Model

In the interests of presenting other theories regarding game design.

Here is the AGE Model.

There are a few similar notions to where I was heading with the meta-level of Vector Theory, and it would be easy to pigeonhole Vector Theory as a method of analysing the Art-Game axis within the AGE Model.

But I think there are a couple of key points of contention between the two methods of analysis.

Still, it's a well worded paper. Certainly something I'll be referring to as Vector Theory needs to be refined further. It's probably a decent example of a working release PDF, the kind of thing that I'll be using for Vector theory once the discussions and blog posts have worked their way to a natural conclusion.

New Movie Software/App

I have no idea how long it's been around, but I've just been alerted to this.

XTRA Normal

I'm thinking of using it as a method for generating some "examples of play" for different games.

Maybe even as a way of explaining a few key concepts in Vector Theory rather than just throwing huge blocks of text at anyone who might be passing by.

(Now if only I could get it to embed movies into the blog)

Other Theories

My Vector Theory isn't the only thing happening in the theoretical areas of roleplaying. I've been alerted in the last day or so to the Cubism Theory of roleplaying game design. It seems to be taking things from a completely different perspective to my own work or GNS, which is great...it allows another perspective for potential analysis.
I'm hoping that a good theoretical community can develop around roleplaying, and this might be another step towards it. It's also my hope that new designers might pick from the range of design theories available and create better games in the future.

Vector Theory #20: Metagame Layers

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I'm paraphrasing a bit here, but the Big Model states...

Let's deconstruct this a bit, by starting at the centre.
Ephemera consist of talking, rolling the dice, the reaction of players to one another's actions, and the "meat" of a roleplaying session. The Ephemera are typically considered to be "what happens at the table".

Techniques are the way play is engaged. These provide meaning to an event within the ephemera. Examples include the methods of generating a character or event within the ephemera, ways to determine the outcome of events. The Techniques are typically considered to be "what's written in the rulebook".

Exploration is the shared imagination of the roleplaying experience. This is the part that everyone's singular imagination taps into; and where the singular imaginations overlap, you get a shared imagination space. Exploration is divided into five areas:
Character, a fictional personColor, details that provide atmosphereSettin…

RIP Frank Frazetta 1928-2010

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Almost always found among the top ten lists for the greatest fantasy artists of all time, and certainly one of the finest artisans of the latter 20th Century, Frank Frazetta's name is synonymous with sword-and-sorcery paintings and illustrations of fantastic fiction.

I've been aware f him ever since I was given a book of fantasy illustrations as a young boy in the early 1980's. My love of the fantasy genre can be attributed to Frazetta and other luminaries such as Boris Vallejo, Julie Bell, Keith Parkinson and later H.R. Giger (but that was when I got into my dark phase).

Recently, my fondness for Frazetta has increased as I've been collecting the Death Dealer series of comics from image and the assorted comics that tell a back-story to each of his paintings.

He is one of those great artists I'd love to have met, but now that opportunity has passed.

I was alerted to this news through several of the groups and contacts I've made on deviantArt, and the news seems to …

Eurovision Time of Year Again

It's that ritual time of year...when I immerse myself in the insanity of the Eurovision Song Contest.

I've started looking through some of the entries, but most of them seem to be slow sappy ballads. Nothing tongue-in-cheek (I'm tempted to blame the Norwegians who are running it this year...), it all seems too serious.

Eurovision isn't meant to be serious...is it?

At least the Lithuanians are holding up the fun side of the contest, "Eastern European Funk"...how can you go wrong?



Time to start looking through the other entries for some kitsch and chaos.

Vector Theory #19: Components of Path Design

There's an old school of game module design which incorporates flowcharts.

Each scene or critical decision point in a story is a flowchart junction box, with arrows leading to one or more other junction boxes until a terminus point is reached ("Choose Your Own Adventure" books can be plotted in much the same way).

While roleplaying games allow far more diversity of choices for their participants, this remains a valid method to construct games in the traditional way.

You fight the dragon. Generally, there are three possible outcomes:
1. You beat the dragon. Go straight through to the next encounter/scene.
2. You are beaten by the dragon. Maybe your story ends here, or maybe you are at the mercy of the dragon and must face an alternate conflict before you can continue the story.
3. You run away. You must find an alternative path around the dragon, this might require going back to pick up items/clues that you didn't possess the first time.

That in essence is the conflict, and …

Vector Theory #18: Filters, Mirrors and Otherkind Dice

Also, are you familiar with otherkind dice? I've been reading about them recently, and they seem flippin sweet, but I'm having trouble fitting an otherkind dice conflict into your theory. Or are they just a way of producing mirrors on the fly?

I've been thinking about using Otherkind dice as one of my Vector Theory examples for a while. But if you've been following the blog, you'll see that I've only just refined things enough to start talking about specific game mechanisms through the analogy.
If you look through the comments on Neutral Filters, you'll see that I recanted the idea of "A Penny for My Thoughts" being a system of neutral filters...
The new paradigm for the analogy states that filters adjust the mechanisms used to confront obstacles within a story, while mirrors adjust the direction in which a story flows.
These two need not be mutually exclusive.
Otherkind Dice are special, I looked at them last year in my Game Mechani(sm) Series. They …

Font Progress

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Just a note to let people know how the RPG font project is proceeding.
Here's my blank dice glyphs...






...and here's a few examples with numbers added to them...






...and a few other ideas such as target numbers...


...explosive damage...


...defensive scores...


It's still a long way from completion, but it's starting to come together. Fudge dice will be easy to implement by simply keeping the positive and negative signs and overlapping them over the dice in the same way that the numbers currently are. I could even generate specific dice for "Happy Birthday Robot" in the same manner.

Vector Theory #17: Neutral Filters

A bit of extra thought has reminded me of filters that don't necessarily change things for the better or worse.
In a game like A Penny for my Thoughts, filters play a fascinating role.
At first, all Narratons are in complete flux. Nothing is known about their path, their wavelength or their polarity. But this resolves quickly.
The polarity is quickly set by the "Facts and Reassurances" sheet; this quickly defines the type of story that can be expected in the session. The general path of the game is also known at the start of play, when everyone is handed their questionnaire sheets.
We don't have predefined mirrors to deflect the paths in any specific direction, but these may arise in the course of play (as shown later).
The first part of the game applies the first batch of filters to set the initial wavelength through their memory fragments.
With this basic structure in place, players move into the next phase of the game where they face the questions of the questionnaire.…

Vector Theory #16: Stripping Back Filters

I probably got a bit too deep too quickly with my previous filter post.

Let's look at some simpler options...

An adventurer is exploring ruins. She has a range of tools at her disposal.

In traditional games, the GM sets filters for the adventurer, then (depending on the game and the specific scenario) the player choose which of these filters they want to push their character's story through.

The GM has set an additive filter and a subtractive filter for this encounter.

If a Narraton passes through an additive filter, there is a chance its power is increased. Aspects of it's wavelength are enhanced if the filter is negotiated successfully...or nothing happens if the filter is negotiated unsuccessfully.

If a Narraton passes through a subtractive filter, there is a chance its power is decreased. Nothing happens if the filter is negotiated successfully...or aspects of it's wavelength are diminished if the filter is negotiated unsuccessfully.

Example Subtractive Filter 1: Punji Tr…

Vector Theory #15: A Better Look at Filters

Even with some new definitions in place, concepts like perfect and imperfect mirrors hold their own. A perfect mirror deflects a Narraton without announcing it;s presence to the particle, an imperfect mirror is seen for what it is and an appreciative audience will allow the Narraton to continue on it's deflected path while an unappreciative audience will look for justifications in the story twist or may even seek to resume their original path. Mirrors purely deflect a Narraton, taking the story toward a different potential set of scenes and conclusions.

But with our shiny new definitions, we can really start to look at other ways the story changes. Starting with filters (which we touched on earlier), these change the wavelength of the Narraton.

I'll pull an example from typical play.

A warrior strides into a fight. To overcome this fight and progress to the next scene, he has a range of tools at his disposal. To get through the scene, he needs to maintain his health (to resist hi…

Vector Theory #14: Definitions

"Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous."

"The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools. "

-Two quotes from Confucius

"The more you know the less you understand."

"The Tao that can be named is not the true Tao." (although a more correct interpretation is "The Tao that can be Tao'd is not the true Tao.")

-Two quotes from Lao Tzu

"Kabbalah seeks to define the nature of the universe and the human being, the nature and purpose of existence, and various other ontological questions."

-Wikipedia

"From the year 1540 and onward, the basic levels of Kabbalah must be taught publicly to everyone, young and old. Only through Kabbalah will we forever eliminate war, destruction, and man's inhumanity to his fellow man."

-Rabbi Avraham Azulai

(Also have a look at this web page.)

Definitions are hugely important. They h…