Showing posts from August, 2012

A Gaming equivalent of the Bechdel Test.

There has been a bit of talk lately about ethnicity and gender in roleplaying games.

On one side you get the die hard "cultural appropriation" fanatics who think that any time a non-white culture is included in a game, it is an attempt to rape the cultural heritage of the people depicted (either explicitly or implicitly).

On the other side you get the people who are desperate to break gaming across the global spectrum of societies, these people decry the presence of exclusively white-male strong figures depicted throughout the illustrations and examples.

But gaming isn't the only aspect of "nerd-culture" where issues like this are playing out. Comics have long suffered from the same issues, with the vast majority of super heroes being male and/or caucasian. This has been highlighted in recent situation when there was a huge uproar about turning Spiderman into a half negro/hispanic kid, and the ongoing rants about there being few if any females on staff at DC co…

What is it with "Apocalypse World"?

The game Apocalypse World has been an indie darling for a while now...months, years...I don't know. The one thing I do know is that every time I look at it I just think to myself, "Yeah, it's got a couple of interesting ideas, but is it really deserving of all the attention it's taking away from other game concepts in the indie sphere?"

Here's what I'm seeing.

Basic Mechanism.

A player rolls 2d6 for their character (they modify this by an attribute relevant to the task). On a 10+, a full success is earned (the character gets what they are after and they don't have to give anything up in the process). On a 7-9, a partial success is earned (the character gets some of what they are after, but they probably have to make some kind of sacrifice to achieve this). On a 6 or less, the action fails (and something bad probably happens).


Everyone gets a range of "Basic Moves"; these are things that everyone in the setting can do. Each move s…

Walkabout Mood/Scene Generator

I recently posted the idea of using Fudge dice to develop room moods devised by Fred Hicks

A great and simple system for developing a wide variety of social settings using four dice capable of producing results of positive (+), neutral (O) or negative (-).

I've been trying to develop something similar for walkabout that can be used to develop random scenes on the fly.

This would use the basic mechanisms found throughout the rest of the game, in a new and innovative way.

With this in mind, the basic system is to draw three tokens and allocate them to three categories. One category describing the basic upside of the situation, one describing the basic down side of the situation, and one providing story input to the situation.

The second side of the basic system lies in the colours of the tokens; Black tokens [+] being good, White tokens [-] bad, Red tokens [R] destructive, Green constructive [G] and Blue transformative [B].

The basic idea of defining a scene on the fly would incorpo…

A Non "White Male-Centric" Game

Over on Story Games, in the The White Male-centric Thread, there have been some interesting comments. I was going to add some more over there, but decided to break off into a new thread.

Over the past year, I've asked for gamers to provide images of themselves to be inserted into the game as post-apocalyptic survivors. I did this as an exercise to avoid the stereotypical muscle-bound white heroic warrior, but over half of the players who provided images for me were white males...about one in five were females (typically white), and about the same number were of distinctly darker skin tone. Plenty of the players submitting their imagery were Italians, Russians, and other players who did not have English as a first language, but the white male stereotype held.

To break this up a bit, I deliberately overloaded on stock imagery depicting non-caucasian males, and females of all ethnicities...and one of the core signature characters used in many of the examples will be based on photogr…

Room Moods

I found this great little tool that uses Fudge dice to assess how well a situation fits with a character's agenda.


It's very close to somethng I've been working on for Walkabout, and helps clarify a few ideas.

Thanks Fred.

Hell on 8 Wheels...coming soon.

For those who've been watching the development of the Roller Derby board game "Hell on 8 Wheels"...

...the design work is underway. Prototypes will be available soon.

I'll be looking for playtesters, and anyone who offers good playtest advice will go in the draw for a limited edition version of the final game (as well as having their name included among the playtesting credits).

Between this and the buzz generating about "Walkabout", interesting times are coming.

The Essence of Walkabout

I just posted this on G+, and as I said over there...

It's a bit glib, it doesn't quite go into the full depth I'm after, and he's neither riding a motorcycle, carrying a shotgun nor wielding a steampunk apparatus...but this comes pretty close to what I'm going for in the game "Walkabout". 

New Website

Apparently, the Vulpinoid Studios website went down a few weeks ago.

So one of my side projects has been a rebuild and redesign of the site.

At the moment we just have a front page, but this should be indicative of the layout for the remainder of the website.
Go over there, have a look. Tell me what you think.

Numbers or no numbers

One of the points of Walkabout, is to be a game without numbers.

I like the idea of a game where the narrative is driven purely by traits; where every bonus is pulled back to a physical piece of paper that describes something within the fictional world. I don't like the idea of a game where a single action falls back on an arbitrary value that may not be relevant to the situation at hand, or a table of predetermined outcomes that might not make sense in context.

I think the idea of a combat mechanism where two players weave their intentions back and forth until someone starts getting a clear advantage. It seems that the current system does this.

But I'm worried about the notion of too many traits getting thrown into a situation...and how many is too many?

The way the current combat system stands, two evenly matched combatants will have a tendency to face off against one another in a stalemate. The draw of the tokens might favour one side or the other, and the strategic choices…

Application of Cascade Effects

Let’s look at the sample combat sequence with cascade effects in play.
The shaman still goes first. Shaman – (Narrates his “Bloodthirsty” à “Dangerous” cascade) The shaman utters mumbled words in a monotone voice, sending his shadowy spirit companion across the junkyard. It descends on Claire, ripping away at her exposed flesh. Claire – (Narrates her “Pistol” à “Blessed Ammo” à “Weapon” cascade) Before it can do too much damage to her, Claire fires wildly into the air in the general direction of the spirit. The gunshots cause it to become confused momentarily, allowing Claire the opportunity to find a way out.
Claire is out of there, she still has a short term “injury”, but things are nowhere near as bad as they could have been.
I don’t know if this is better. It’s certainly quicker, but there is a whole lot of depth that simply gets lost. Carol should still face Claire’s white token on her “Disturbed” trait, because this could be a pivotal feature of the encounter…something that really te…

Realism versus Narrative

I've noticed a problem.

It's not so much a case of Story vs. Game, because neither story nor game really approach the dilemma I've recently been seeing with the rule mechanisms I've been developing for Walkabout.

The last combat example really highlighted it.

The example showed the first sequence of a combat (a sequence two combatants engaged in about ten combat actions each). It showed some of the good sides of the system and some of the bad sides.

Let's say roughly half of the actions were "attacks" and half were "other actions". In a traditional RPG, this exchange would take a minimum of about 30 die rolls. Each "attack" would consist of a die roll for each attempt to hit, followed by a die roll for damage...there might be a chance to dodge a blow, absorb the worst of the injury (armour or saving throws, or both). Each "other action" would consist of another die roll, probably against some static difficulty to see if …

Further examples of the Walkabout Core Mechanism

Negotiating with a trader Claire is negotiating with a local trader in the attempt to acquire some of the chemical fertilizer that seems to be a part of the problems in the region. A typical NPC has no stats; as far as the narrative is concerned, they are either an aide toward story progression or an obstacle toward its completion. During the course o play, the GM can choose to assign a pre-generated character from their limited pile of story antagonists, or they can spend a few story tokens to increase the difficulty of the situation by applying traits to the scene. In this case, the GM will save the named character and spend three points to make the scene challenging for Claire.
Step 1 1a – Since it is later in the story, Claire has a few items she’s picked up over the course of play, and she decides they’ll make good trade items to acquire the fertiliser for the story. Thus, Claire is trying to transform useless trinkets into useful items, a Blue action. 1b – Claire has “Intimidation” …

Rebuilding the site

The Vulpinoid Studios website went down a few weeks ago, and among other projects I've been working to rebuild it.

As a preview, here is the new title page (work in progress).

Index Page

Any feedback would be appreciated.

Correcting an Oversight

It's at this point that I realise that I haven't provided details about character generation. I can hardly expect to gain insight or criticism regarding something if I don't reveal it.

The current incarnation of Walkabout develops characters using three core traits (each with a range of activation keywords), and a range of relationship and equipment choices based on those traits.

It's designed to be a pretty quick system for getting into the action, with characters starting out as general stereotypes who develop personality as they interact with the outside world and with each other.

In that regard, it's pretty similar to FUBAR; but unlike FUBAR, Walkabout is less random and more focused. FUBAR self regulates, players create character that might be played by the others on the table, or might end up as antagonists. FUBAR self regulates, players create character that might be played by the others on the table, or might end up as antagonists. Players don't throw t…

Spirits, Creatures and other Strangeness

One of the key aspects of the Walkabout system is the nature of relationships. Player characters have relationships to the people they come from, the spheres of influence relating to their powers, and most importantly relationships to each other.

The spirits and other creatures they encounter are built up with the same relationships.

This is a part of the game that has been simmering in my head for a long time, it's a core aspect of the premise and it need to be addressed correctly. Not all encounters will focus around creatures, and it is definitely possible to have a game in which no creatures or spirits appear, but they are so integral to the setting that they need to be done right. These beings need to be a natural part of the world and need to be integrated into the most fundamental aspects of the system; rather than supernatural beings that feel like they belong somewhere else.

No that's not really right...I think I men to say that spirits in this setting exist as a part…

The mid design slog

My two design projects for this year have gotten to that point where things are locking into place...that has its advantages and disadvantages.

Both games ("Hell on Eight Wheels" and "Walkabout") have a good solid framework, they both have some innovative systems (or at least retool existing systems in innovative ways), they work well in my mind, and have gone through a decent number playtest examples and simulations.

But now I've reached that point where I just have to focus and get them finished. I really like these two games, I think they've both got some great potential for an entertaining evening (or afternoon...or morning). Its that point where I just have to focus on them and get them right.

Both games need to be written up formally in a way that makes sense to someone reading them for the first time. In this regard, Hell on Eight Wheels needs a good series of procedural play instructions (and some solid explanations for play), it has a few of these …

Stories coming full circle.

After rabidly avoiding spoilers for the past month, last night I went to see "The Dark Knight Rises".

No overwhelming spoilers here, but will say that I did enjoy the movie.

One of the things that I really apprecated was he idea of a story coming full circle. There were a lot of references in this last movie that linked back to the first. Stories that seemed to have headed in one direction to be resolved were twisted back in one themselves.

It's very much the story of the heroes journey. Each film bears this as an aspect, but the arc of the three films together really pulls this idea together...certainly far better than the Matrix films, or in my opinion even Star Wars (which was always inteded to be an interpretation of the Campbell-esque "Heroes Journey").

It's the kind of thing I love to set up in games. A story seems resolved after the first session...we all know that there are enough resolutions to attain a sense of closure, but there are always a few…

Walkabout core mechanism play examples

With the modified core mechanism for Walkabout, here are some in play examples:
We’ll follow a single character through a range of actions to demonstrate how the same basic core mechanism is versatile enough to handle a wide variety of situations.
Bill is playing Bruce, a helpful young man who does jobs for the local community. He is a “Jackaroo” from the “Cultivator” people (keywords: Endurance, Riding), his basic edge comes from “Training” as a “Survivalist” (keywords: Academics, Survival), but he also has a “Reputation” as being “Curious” (keywords: Awareness, Stealth). He is not a wayfarer. Bruce has the standard equipment (Sturdy Clothes (+: Rugged, -: Dirty), Horse, Hat, Canteen, Survival Knife), and has three relationships; a loose relationship to his people, a loose relationship to his reputation, and a close relationship to Claire (a girl he met on the road). Bill’s token bag contains 6 white, 6 black, 3 green, 2 blue and 1 red.
Let’s look at some activities that Bruce might…

A revised core mechanism (take 2)

OK…a slightly amended and clarified version of the core mechanism.
First, some context.
All player characters are described by three types of core trait; their people (the family who raised them), their edge (the advantage they possess) and their dance (the way they move). Each of these traits has a series of keywords associated with them, such traits may be skills or advantages associated with the keyword (different characters may have the same trait, but different keywords). Player characters gain advantage by calling on these (one of each, potentially gaining access top three keywords if they have really focused their talents in one field). Non player characters typically don’t have a dance, but significant NPCs might gain two edges (such character can still only use one edge at a time, but this improves their versatility within the story). Characters also have a range of basic non-core traits, this includes physical items (equipment, trade goods, clues, cursed items), companions (pe…