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Showing posts from December, 2015

He Never Died

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Whoa...

Just finished the movie "He Never Died" starring Henry Rollins.

If you haven't watched it, it's classified as "horror" but is really more of a violent psychological drama, with a bit of investigation thrown in, and definite supernatural themes. The figure in the movie who might best be described as the iconic horror role, is actually the figure you get to know best in the film. If that's triggered your interest, go find it. If that's set off alarm bells and trigger warnings, just leave it alone.



I just want to run a story with an immortal at the centre, but not have the immortal in the story. Like the eye of the storm, this immortal wanders through time, chaos surrounds them and constantly threatens to engulf them but generally they try to avoid conflict, avoid rippling the fabric of society and history. This story would be about the children of the immortal, each abandoned as an orphan while the immortal moves off to wander other parts of t…

Updated Werewolf

Werewolf was always one of my favourite games. It made efforts to be global when nothing else seemed to be, it may have been problematic in retrospect but at least it was taking those first steps.

When +Levi Kornelsen wrote up his take on a new paradigm for the system, it really got me thinking. I wanted to write a whole heap about this interpretation of the setting, I wanted to run a game with this set up (just like I wanted to run the infamous Kult/World-of-Darkness crossover back in the 90s... I must find that again).  . 

So I don't lose this interpretation of the setting again, I'm just going to post his words directly here on the blog. I might write something more specific in regard to this shortly. For the moment though, I'm seeing some interesting riffs on these ideas for Mage or Vampire to make them more truly global rather than just stereotypical collections of cliches.

Werewolf: The Apocalypse, and making it less ugh for a new edition.
(Because enough people seemed i…

Indigenous Gaming

It's nice to be considered the "go to guy" for gaming support with regard to the Australian Indigenous community. If I had strung together my discussions with community members, my study at university, and my general work with local elders it would be a few solid weeks of immersion over the course of the last year. I don't think I'm an expert on the subject matter, I barely think I'm scratching the surface, I'd love to see an actual member of the Indigenous community writing games, but it seems that I'm the "go to guy" for the moment.

That means I've basically got an obligation to make sure Walkabout is finalised in the next couple of months... and to make sure the product released is as good as I can make it in order to start a dialogue with potential Indigenous game designers who are looking to tell their own stories.

One of the big problems I'm seeing with the Indigenous groups across Australia is the nature of "secret busine…

A Reflection on the Year

I set out this year with the intention of completing a number of unfinished game projects... I think that I've successfully completed none of them. On the other hand, I've completed a university degree, created a quite a few entries for various game design competitions, seen a huge increase of traffic to this blog, I've helped drive a LARP group in a new and interesting direction, and completed a few commissions with my cartography services. I can't say that this year has been a failure, it's just not seen the successes that I had initially aimed toward.

I deliberately put Walkabout on hold this year while I engaged in some studies into Australian Indigenous Culture at university, I had no idea that I'd end up in regular contact with a group of local Aboriginal elders who have been teaching me far more than any textbook. I've also visited the largest Australian Indigenous library in Canberra (with them) and have been given all the research materials I could…

Mapping Procedure (Part 2)

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This mapping commission consists of three maps. One for the base camp, one for the overland trek, and one for a mountain to climb and explore at the end.

I've already shown the map for the overland trek.


The details of the base camp were based as a loose interpretation of this map.

The tricky bit has been the mountain. The general idea is that the characters will explore an ancient legendary mountain that has settled around the remains of a petrified dragon. I thought it might be interesting to depict the mountain as a cross section, depicting the dragon writhing in the centre of the mountain. Other ideas just didn't look suitably mountainous, or suitably draconic.
Pencil sketches were sumbitted to the client.

On being given the go ahead, inking was started...

...followed by shading of the rock inside the mountain. Here I deliberately used multiple thicknesses of pen to emphasise the shapes of the petrified dragon, as compred to the other stone comprising the terrain. 
A bit m…

Everyone's a Mystic...

...some are just a bit more obvious about it than others.

I've been watching the development of some new (and not so new) roleplaying ideas by several people.

There seems to be a common thread in many people's designs where the heroes develop by gaining new abilities and improving those abilities, actually this has been a common thing in pretty much evey roleplaying game except for those designed as one-shots or those that are going out of their way to push the envelope in some way.

What's been more interesting recently is the idea of abilities as a way to manipulate the story's narrative, rather than abilities as a way to manipulate the game world. As a character improves, they gain new ways to manipulate the narrative, or ways to manipulate the narrative in a more significant manner. Maybe this has been a part of the rpg scene since the beginning, maybe there's been a drift away from it, maybe not... Curiously, the "storyteller" system drifts away from …

How to (and not to) run a time travel game?

After watching this year's Doctor Who Christmas Special, I'm reminded of one of the things that Doctor Who can do really well... Especially compared to a lot of other TV shows and narrative forms where time travel is an element.

Don't get me wrong, Doctor Who has just as many failures when it comes to temporal narrative, but it's been going for so long that there have been some great examples of how storylines and timelines can combine, compliment and even contradict. 
It basically reflects the way I run long term narrative in a campaign. 
Each episode has a few hooks, some of which get resolved, usually enough to get a feel of closure when the episode concludes, but sometimes not enough and people complain about plot holes. Usually there are one or two plot points that just don't get resolved, but in a show like Doctor Who they can be resolved in a later episode or even a later season. 
The "River Song" story thread that stretches across numerous Doctors…

Mapping Procedure

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As a Christmas present to everyone, here's a general step by step procedural on my mapping technique when working with a client.

Here's where the pencil sketch begins


After confirming with the client that this is what he is after, I start detailing in ink. The first details to be inked are the parts of the map that mesh with another part of the series. In this case it's the exploration base camp at the bottom of the map.

Then I outline the significant structures... which in this case means the central glacier. There are paths to the left and right of this glacier leading toward a mysterious mountain at the far end. Underneath you can see some embellishments that might get added into the map when I've scanned it and am digitally mucking around with it.

Here's a closer look at those embellishments. They were inspired by details in Tibetan patterns, which often appear in Tibetan buddhist maps and scrolls.

Next I add in the rocky mountainous terrain around the glacier.

Magic thoughts

This rejuvenation of the World of Darkness in recent weeks has seen a lot of people taking a new interest in the setting. That means once again that my earlier work this year was ahead of the zeitgeist, and once again was allowed to slide before the interest became widespread. 

I've also been seeing quite a few great magic systems in development over the past few months. There was even a great discussion regarding the spirit sphere in Mage, and how the new game rules basically rendered it irrelevant except as a type of paradigm or focus to drive other effects in play (sorry, I can't remember who wrote this).
So, I'm thinking of returning to my "Storifying Mage" concepts, but now I'm considering a different angle. 
My new thoughts are an assortment of keywords that get combined to produce mystical effects. 9 spheres, 9 lists of keywords in 5 levels. That's a minimum of 45 keywords, but we're probably looking at more like 90 (2 per level). Each keyword …

Mapping in Progress

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I think it's probably to show this small part of the new map commission. When it gets closer, I'll start telling people where they need to look for the finished product.

A good start

Thankyou to everyone who read, shared and responded to yesterday's post.

Throngh direct comments on the post, G+ responses, and private messages/emails, I've managed to accumulate over 100 articles on the topics of gaming and roleplaying. Now it's a case of distilling my vague direction of inquiry into a series of specific questions to investigate, each of which might contribute toward a larger pattern of understanding. That's generally how research in academia works... If you pick a topic too vast, the scholars say that you are speaking in generalities and vagueness. If you pick a single topic to small, a different group of scholars claim that you are cherry picking your dataset and narrowing everything down to a focus that happens to match your preconceived agenda. So you work piece by piece, feeding off the work of others, and allowing them to feed off yours (the more referenced your work is by others, the more respected it becomes).

Once I've knocked over a cou…

Academic Research into Roleplaying

I recently finished my university degree, a Bachelor of Arts focusing on Social Analysis and Sociolinguistics. The final stage of that included research into play, particularly focusing on the cosplay community, but touching on elements of LARP. One of the things I found was that there really isn't a lot of research work being done into the field of adult play. There is a bit coming from the Nordic scene, but most play research is focused on the elements of children's play and the realm of computer gaming.

But there is a lot of adult play going on.

I'm writing this post as a call out to anyone who reads the blog, and who might know of some academic papers, journal articles, or other sources, that discuss adult play. I've been thinking of doing some serious research work in this field for a few weeks, and there seems to be a drive in the local community (at least partially driven by +Keiran Sparksman) to get some more formal work done in this sphere.

I know a few people…

New Map Commission

I have been commissioned to illustrate a series of maps for a new Torchbearer product. Given that Torchbearer is one of those indie games that seems to be getting a bit of traction lately, it's great to be considered for this opportunity.

I'm guessing +Dyson Logos was busy.

Episode 7: A Review with Minimal Spoilers

If you've watched any of the trailers, nothing I say here will spoil things.

I took +Leah Wenman to see "The Force Awakens" and we both really enjoyed it.

It felt like a familiar return to something. A comfortable fit in a number of ways, with enough interest to show that the story might beheading in a new direction.

My biggest issue is not with the movie, but with the events around the movie. Even just by watching the trailers you'll know that one of the major characters in the movie is a young woman. I hadn't seen many toys of this character, and this bugged me because my wife is a huge Star Wars fan and this might be another character for young girls to look up to. After seeing the movie, a lack of toys for that character seems even more ridiculous. I'm also expecting some of the existing prominent toys to disappear now that the gender of those characters has been confirmed.

But those are concerns that have little to do with the actual constructed narrativ…

Rewards in Game

I'm working on rebuilding the Elgardt LARP system, incrementally. The problem is that there are other parties who are also integrating changes into the game.

One of my aims when designing a freeform LARP is to give everybody too many things to do during the course of play. I like to set up webs of intrigue between players, and give them jobs to do that force them into interaction with other players, while the other parties interested in developing the game further have pushed toward micromanaged quests with small groups led by GMs through railroaded scenarios. The problem I see with that second option is that when you only have one or two GMs for twenty or more players, you can micro-manage four or five (maybe even six or seven) each but everyone else is stuck waiting for their turn to go on a quest later, or maybe they get relegated into the role of NPCs.

This is great if everyone is on the same page regarding the game structure, but if everyone is hoping to play their own charac…

Fast Combat

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The final battle in yesterday's LARP was a bit anti climactic. I was in it (to the right), and had been told that we'd be filmed. Yes, I should have tried to make it a bit more dramatic... but even so, it was over quickly, and would have been over quickly even with a few flourishes.

That's how quickly I think combat should go in a tabletop game.

Getting closer with the blueprints

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I went looking for folded paper textures to apply to the blueprint maps, to give them an aged look. None have been particularly good so far, and I might just have to fold some of my own cardboard, scan it in then apply it to the image.

...but it's still getting closer as one of the final image to appear in the new FUBAR rulebook that's gradually coming together.

A few more days without distraction and I should have a version of the rules ready for people to have a look at before I launch a crowdfunding project to get hard copies of the book printed.

Balance in Can of Beans

Game balance is one of those bugbears that some designers obsess over, while other designers blatantly disregard it. Then there are those who claim that there is no such thing as true balance and for a game to "simulate realism" it should actually be unbalanced.

Clans of Elgardt (and many other games I've encountered) uses a variable cost on different abilities, where those abilities that are more powerful are more costly, but the actual usefulness of various abilities and the associated costs are always debated (this is too expensive for what it does...while this is too powerful for it's price). Things get shuffled, characters get rewritten when a new set if rules is released, sometimes characters are retired purely because they are no longer competitive, or no longer fit the player's conception of what the character should have been when reflected in the new rule set.

Some rule sets make different abilities exclusive to certain occupational paths, if you're…

Character Abilities in Can of Beans

I've been digging through the archives of the unnamed "pirate/steampunk" boffer LARP system I developed last year, and with over a year of regular experience playing this style of game through Clans of Elgardt (CoE), most of my thoughts real haven't changed much. There are a few things that I'd change slightly based on my "experience in the field", and far more things that I'd change about CoE to get a happy medium. There's a certain naivety about the game, but that's to be expected since the original designers had never written a game like this before and generally worked from second hand accounts about what games like this could be. I'd love the rewrite that game from the ground up, because it has some interesting concepts in it, but now has too much baggage and too many other people trying to rewrite things about it (even to the point that one of our local spin-offs is basically a CoE heartbreaker).

A lot of CoE is about player abilit…

Can of Beans - Reflection on the Past

The last time I developed a Boffer LARP system, I began with a set of Positives and Negatives... or, more accurately a continuum of Positive non-negotiables, positive negotiables, negate negotiables, and negative non-negotiables... basically the continuum goes from the ramge pf thins to definitely be a part of the game, through those I'm less opinionated about, and on to those I definitely don't want in the game.

You can find that list here.

I think the main difference in this new system is that magic moves from a non-negotiable positive to a negotiable. Post apocalypse isn't really known for magic, but occasionally psychic powers or mutations appear in the fiction.

I'll probably be looking at the last series of LARP design posts pretty closely as I develop "Can of Beans", reflecting on those ideas in light of the play experiences I've had in the last 15 months since I wrote those posts.

The second post from that series still holds fairly true to my design …