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Showing posts from July, 2013

Stealing cultures

At it's heart, Walkabout is a game of cultural appropriation.

There it is, I said it.

It's name is an appropriation of an Australian Aboriginal term. (If you are from outside Australia, don't give me any crap about using the term Aboriginal vs Aborigine vs Indigenous vs Koori, universities have been debating this for decades and are still arguing over it. Different members of the cultural groups descended from various pre-European tribes and nations prefer different terms of address, and many of them are simply happy that they are being referred to at all in a context that doesn't involves deaths in custody under an inherently tainted colonial legal system).

The characters in Walkabout portray neo-shamans in a post apocalyptic watseland, drawing their inherent spirituality from the myths of the Australian Aboriginal people. They appropriate this system of spiritual belief because it seems to fit their new world better than many of the religions of the past.

When 99.99%…

The Castle Doctrine

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What is it about game designers who try to do something controversial in a game, and then get all defensive about it (or claim that their game is a piece of high-art/self-expression)?

Before today, I'd never even heard of "The Castle Doctrine". Based on the various commentaries I've been reading about it, It's a game that has been written in response to the designers feeling of "helplessness" when their middle-class white prestige was vaguely under threat (by way of a few robberies in his new neighbourhood, two of which occurred in the house next door). Suddenly the designer felt violated, and believed in a typical American/NRA fashion that he his house was his castle, and thus he could/should defend it by any mean necessary.



It's an inherently violent game, and my readings of a few pages from The Castle Doctrine Wiki lead me to the conclusion that it's basically as palatable as a game of Monopoly...ie, once one person slightly creeps ahead by v…

Another slow down

University has started up again for a new semester, so there might be a reduction in the number of posts over the next few weeks again.

I'll still be working away at Walkabout, I really want to get it finished by the end of this year. There are plenty of pictures that I've been working on over that last couple of weeks (that I haven't been able to show, due to a lack of working scanner at the moment), there should also be a preliminary text available some time in the next couple of weeks (and even a couple of pages for the game's explanatory comic).

So even if I'm not posting here, there will definitely be work going on in the background.

Walkabout or FUBAR with Kaiju

OK, so the last post was a bit misleading...I didn't really discuss kaiju that much.

A game mechanism like Palladium's "Megadamage" rules works well for giant monsters and giant robots. 1 "megadamage" equals a hundred regular damage...when the typical person has abut 20 total damage they can take before dying, a single point of megadamage simply obliterates them...when a car measures a few hundred damage points, it only takes a few "megadamage" before it is rendered useless. The game system was actually written for Robotech, which uses giant robots and alien creatures that stand ten times taller than humans. But it has it's flaws as well, most notably that it is a linear system at base 100, 1 "mega" damage = 100 "regular" damage.

A similar game mechanism can be found in Aeon/Trinity from White Wolf. In that game system you have higher grade weapons and armour that deal in wound levels above human level. Everyone may have 7 …

Kaiju!!!

Don't you just hate it when you come back from a movie with a head full of ideas?

Maybe you love it?

Three movies watched in a marathon viewing session, three heads full of wildly conflicting ideas.

Despicable Me 2, The Wolverine, and Pacific Rim.

There is so much storytelling potential in all of them, each a rich world with a dozen story or more ideas. Each at a different point in it's mythos.

(I'm not going to produce many spoilers here, especially if you've seen the trailers for these movies).

The Wolverine was nothing much new...Logan starts as a loner, gets swept up in events, meets a mutant who wants him dead, comes close to death at some stage, then overcomes this to engage in a big fight scene at the end. The setting has been thoroughly explored in the other movies from the X-Men series, and this only really deviates because the majority of the action happens in Japan rather than in North America. We've seen it all before, but you get what you expect...if yo…

24hr design contest

It's on again, ideas are being gathered.

I might even enter this year.

What do players do?

I've been thinking about the things we instinctively expect new roleplayers to understand when they start playing a game. How do we describe these things to new players?

With this in mind, I'm thinking of including this at the start of Walkabout's player section...
The responsibilities of a playerA game of Walkabout is a collaborative event. Everyone needs to contribute to the session for it to run smoothly; while some participants may choose to take a more active role in the storytelling, no single person is responsible for the entertainment of everyone else. Before the session beginsCreate a character. Discuss the types of stories you’d like to tell with the oracle and the other players. Have a general understanding of the story’s genre conventions. Help describe the specifics of the setting. During a sessionContribute to the story. Allow others to contribute to the story. Have a general understanding of the way the rules work. Don’t argue with the Oracle or the other players. M…

New mechanisms

The mechanism for player driven foreshadowing seems to have drawn a bit of interest. It's certainly one of the more popular topics I've started over on Story Games.

That's got me thinking about sharing the other mechanisms that I've developed for simulating narrative techniques.

Walkabout isn't just a game about wandering into town, solving the puzzles and moving on. That might be the grounding for the adventures, but the game is more about the stories that develop between the characters as they do these things. It's like the difference between watching a TV show one episode at a time as it comes out week by week, or even just catching a single episode of a TV show...compared to mainlining a TV show, with the entire season flashing before your eyes, getting a better feeling for the story arcs that build up over the season. A single episode of "Castle" or "NCIS" is about solving the case, a season of the show allows the relationship between c…

Some more Walkabout imagery

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Sorry, this is not the best image, but it's just something else I've been working on for Walkabout.


Deliberately drawn in a style closer to fashion illustration, this series of images will depict the seven major cultures of the Walkabout world and the stereotypical clothing they might wear. One male and one female of each.

Accompanying these illustrations will  be a series of detail shots depicting signature items of clothing, tools and general equipment that might be carried by members of this culture.

Once this series is completed, I've got a few preliminary sketches for some of the dances used by Wayfarers to commune with the spirits (only half a dozen so far, a mixed group of males and females).

Then, I'm probably going to draw up a series of illustrations depicting the edges (the powers, bonuses and training that people use to survive the world of Walkabout), one male or female for each because there are quite a few edges.


Sample Images for the Game Comic

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I'm working through some preliminary sketches for the comic that will be used to described play examples in Walkabout.

At the moment, just a few profile sketches to try and get a feel for the players who will be helping to describe the game.



I haven't really decided who will play what role in the comic, nor have I decided on skin or hair colouration. Given the themes of culture and aboriginality, I'll probably be giving (at least) one of the characters a darker skin tone, and then I'll probably use this character to try and explore a bit more of these themes as the occur through the play examples.

The other thing this leads to is traits for the players...which one is the GM, which one is the rules lawyer, which is the dramatic actor of the group, which comes up with the crazy schemes...all those typical gamer tropes.

I have thought about options for clothes, these will be depicted in a future post.

Delve

I've just been referred to something cool. It's Dave Berg's page, where he describes various aspects of his game Delve in the form of a web comic.

You can visit it here.

It's exactly the kind of thing I have been planning to do with Walkabout, except that I'd be taking the concept a lot further by describing the whole process of play, from character generation and scenario creation, and onward through the play of an entire session.

That's enough post for now...I've got work to do.

(While you're visiting the site, have a look around. Dave's got some great concepts in that game.)

A thought experiment in foreshadowing

The foreshadowing idea from my last post seems to have drawn a bit of interest, but it needs a little clarification and fine-tuning. Here's a pair of play examples to put some of the concepts into a working context. One example uses a generic d20 fantasy system, the other example uses Walkabout; both examples use 4 players and a GM.

The specific wording for foreshadowing in Walkabout is...

The Foreshadow
Time means little in the quantum world of the spirits. Traditionally in the physical world, memories echo events; but in the dreamtime of the spirits, memories can precede events, effect can precede cause. As beings who live with both spirits and survivors, Wayfarers often learn to identify the subtle nuances that echo forward in time before their significant events have occurred. As a story unfolds, a player may highlight a specific descriptive element. Such a descriptive element may be a comment made in passing by the Oracle, or it might be the success or sacrifice result narrated…

A story mechanism for player driven foreshadowing

I'm currently trying to work out the best way to describe a game mechanism where players can highlight a specific event during play, they claim that this event foreshadows a dramatic turn in the story.

They make a standard skill check when they see the foreshadow event (no specific skills, basically just a 50/50 chance of success or failure), determining whether this is a success (they feel it foreshadows something good), or a failure (it sends a shiver down their spine). They don't gain any specific effects from the success or failure at this stage.

One player may foreshadow an event, or additional players can attach their own highlighted events to an existing dramatic turn.

When the dramatic turn occurs, everyone who has an attached event gains the effects of their original skill checks. Those who failed their checks find that the dramatic turn causes problems for them, those who succeeded gain a benefit from the twist.

All players with a stake in the dramatic twist must be …

Maps in progress

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I've mentioned these elsewhere, but still haven't got my scanner working yet.

For those who've been asking about this new series of Walkabout town maps, here is a work-in-progress photo.


Each map is based on a real Australian town, with outskirts degraded due to supernatural activity, walls or fences added as protection, and everything tilted to accounted for the shift in the Earth's axis due to events in the history of the Walkabout setting.

There is a range of a dozen different towns of various sizes, and they've been drawn up with a range of ways to move from one town to the next. Roads, railway lines, coastlines, rivers. I'd like to think these maps could be used in a wide variety of games using the post apocalyptic genre, not just Walkabout.

Changes to the LARP currency system

Now that we’ve looked at the way the system works, let’s make a few modifications to the set up.
Instead of gold as the standard unit of currency, let’s switch to silver. It may not be very historically accurate, but we’ll work off a standard metric coinage to make it easier on our mathematics. We will also give our coins some names to add a bit more flavour to the system.
One Gold Crown = Ten Silver Ducats One Silver Ducat = One Hundred Copper Pennies
Gold Crowns are issued by a central imperial mint. They are called a crown because they bear the symbol of the empire’s crown on one side of the coin. Gold crowns are the preferred currency of the nobility, since they are accepted everywhere and have a high value for their portability.
Silver Ducats are issued by the various dukes around the empire. Ducat means Duke’s coin, and each duke mints their own with distinctive heraldry. Ducats are typically only legal tender in the regions controlled by a duke, this helps ensure that a duke’…

A bit of Pseudo-Science

I'm working through some more of the background details on Walkabout. Trying to get the pseudo-science to sound right. Here's one of the passages I've just written. I hope it makes sense.
Those with a more scientific education claim that spirits are beings of quantum flux. They have always existed in a state just beyond reality, able to coexist in an endless number of locations, and not subject to the laws of matter, energy or time as we understand them. When perceived by an observer in the past, the spirits have taken on a coherent form (their probability waves collapsing into understandable patterns), those forms typically conforming to the belief patterns of the observer. In many cases, an observer has collapsed several probability waves into the one pattern, and thus spirits have developed a variety of traits. Thus animal spirits become tricksters or symbols of virtue, and elemental beings become associated with abstract concepts like emotions. Collective belief over c…

Putting Theory into Practice

First we’ll look at the idea of isolated, secluded and open factions.
An isolated faction is a group of dedicated individuals, they live their life according to the ideals of the faction and belong to no other faction but this one. Examples of an isolated faction might include a fanatical sect within the church, an isolationist group of paramilitary hermits, or the local duke’s personal guard.
A secluded faction is a group of individuals with a common goal, but they often have other agendas beyond the faction. Members of a secluded faction may not belong to another isolated or secluded faction, but they may belong to open factions. Some secluded factions may exist within open factions (as their leadership or inner circle). Examples of a secluded faction might include a family group, a secretive conspiracy (with tendrils reaching into other factions), a general religious group, or an organisation that takes up a lot of a character’s time (such as the local courtiers, or town guard).  

Factional Triangular Numbers

Triangular numbers are a common pattern in RPGs, whether overt or covert. You may not know what triangular numbers are but as soon as I show the pattern, you’ll probably recognise it.
The triangle of 1 is 1 (1 = 1) The triangle of 2 is 3 (1+2 = 3) The triangle of 3 is 6 (1+2+3=6) The triangle of 4 is 10 (1+2+3+4=10) The triangle of 5 is 15 (1+2+3+4+5=15)
As an example, you can multiply this pattern by 1000 and you get the basic scheme for experience in early versions of D&D (modified a bit on eother side to account for the benefits and weaknesses of different classes).
I’m thinking that factions in a LARP could easily follow the same triangular structure. One player can’t form a faction (Individual = L1), Three players can form the most basic faction (Circle = L2), Six players can form the next level of faction (Squad = L3), Ten players are needed for the next level (Order = L4), Fifteen to progress further…etc.
Being in a faction provides benefits to the members, and those benefits …

Building an in-game economy

I started working on the following idea

Three levels of items...
Raw materials Refined materials Goods
These would be split down into specific types...
Raw materials Ore – Gain one per day of work. Wood – Gain two per day of work. Grain – Gain two per day of work. Livestock – Gain one per day of work (may be done once per week). Oil – Gain one per day of work. Rock – Gain two per day of work. Herbs – Gain two per day of work. Cotton – Gain one per day of work. Refined materials Metal – Expend two ore, and spend a day of work to produce 1 metal. Timber – Expend two wood, and spend a day of work to produce 1 timber. Bread – Expend a grain, and spend a day of work to produce 6 bread. Beer – Expend a grain and a herb, and spend a day of work to produce 6 beer (do this once per week). Stone – Expend a rock, and spend a day of work to produce 1 stone. Meat – Expend a livestock, and spend a day of work to produce 1 meat and 1 hide. Paper – Expend a cotton (or a wood), and spend a day of work to produce 1 pape…

New visual inspiration

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I've been looking for new inspiration of a post apocalyptic bent...


It has led me to Romantic Ruins


A bit different from some of the other inspirations I've found, but that's the whole point of the setting....picking and choosing from the available sources of inspiration to make something new.

A Follow Up on QR Codes

I didn't think that a simple post on multimedia functionality and QR codes would generate so much chatter.

General consensus seems to say that it would be an interesting gimmick, but probably wouldn't have a whole lot of functional value. TinyURLs might serve the same purpose just as easily, a quick footnote at the bottom of the page with a web address that links to a descriptive video of the concept under discussion.

A few people have pointed out that QR codes have a time and a place, they tend to be best on street advertising and billboards where they can be used to direct an observer to a specific part of the web when they are on the move and unable to write things down. In a book, the reader has the time to write something down like a TinyURL, and such a thing is less intrusive as a text footnote. If the game design were cyberpunk inspired, then the imagery of a QR code might be more fitting...it's not necessarily great for a post apocalyptic work.

I still think there …

Man who catches Cthulhu critters for a living

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Ok, maybe the headline is not entirely accurate, but I found this awesome wine box and it started my mind running.

QR codes

I know I've thought about using them in a game text before, but I've been trying to think of a better way to incorporate them. I think I've found it.

How about putting QR codes into the margins of the hard-copy main rulebook? Then having those QR codes link to YouTube videos that explain the concepts in a bit more detail, either with a very simple visual style or with live action play examples.

The downloadable PDF copy would convert these QR codes into direct web links.

I think there's potential here.

Walkabout Town Maps

I've been working on ten maps for towns in Walkabout. Each of the maps is specifically based on a small country town in my home state of New South Wales, which makes sense because the game is set in a post apocalyptic version of Australia.

I've literally taken screenshots of maps from Google, twisted them to match the new orientation of the earth in this setting, and have only drawn the parts of town that generally made sense to survive. If a town had a hospital, this part was kept relatively intact, any pubs were maintained, and so were a few key landmarks. If these were spread out over a couple of blocks I sometimes decided to enclose that part of town in some kind of fence or barricade, keeping everything within the bounded blocks, and gradually getting more degraded moving away from town. Typically a third of each town survived, and these are some of the larger settlements in Walkabout. I didn't work on any towns or cities with more than 50,000 people; most of them hav…

Getting into Background Action Specifics

The specific rules for actions behind the scenes need to be simple enough for new players to quickly grok them, but complex enough that they provide richness to the setting and develop storyline.

I’m thinking of using three currencies for behind the scene actions.
Gold – A single use currency that is expended as it is used. Status – A replenishing currency based on open standing within the community. Influence – A replenishing currency based on networks of social intrigue and shadowy manipulation
You could probably include an additional currency reflecting favours, but sometimes an economy works better if certain things aren’t specifically codified. They also work better when there is a different set of rules governing different aspects of the economy, this allows different parts of the economy to become more valuable than others and a flux to develop within the system. Such a flux leads to tension in some areas where stories can develop, we see it in the real world when some countries l…

Behind the Scenes Actions

One of the beauties of running an ongoing live campaign are the actions occurring behind the scenes (in the down time between games). These are the activities where players who aren’t physically fit can perform actions against their fellow players without needing to pick up swords, and the strategies introverted players don’t need to break out of their comfort zone in socially overwhelming debates or arguments. These types actions help round out a game, making it more immersive and contiguous; it feels as though the game world continues to flow in real time, while the live action events are simply highlighted scenes where that world intersects with our own.
In many of the live action campaigns I’ve been a part of, there have been players who have specialised in this type of background activity. During the actual sessions of play, they might seem to sit around not doing much; perhaps approaching a couple of other players in the shadows, or maybe just sitting there…waiting for other pl…