29 April, 2016

Half remembered dream

Have you ever woken up with fragments of a dream still drifting in your mind? Then, when you try to reassemble those fragments, you're sure that you're bringing memories into the mix, and things you've seen on TV or social media, or other sources. You can't be sure of what the dream was, or what has been added from other sources, but you know that the combination is something interesting...something that could be awesome if it was refined a bit.

I've just woken up from that state and I've had an idea that I just meed to write down before it gets lost.

A game, played with 4 types of cards. 
Ship cards - each player gets one.
Crew cards - each player builds a custom crew to pilot their ship
Location cards - which are laid out in a line, with maybe a half dozen cards for a short game, a dozen for a medium game, and twenty for an epic journey
Situation cards - which are hidden under the various location cards and reflect things that have to be confronted and overcome when moving from one location to the next.

The aim of the game is to start at one end of the track and finish at the other. The premise of the game is basically "Wacky Races meets Spelljammer". 

28 April, 2016


I love the ideas behind the Sabbat in Vampire: the Masquerade. Even more, I love the ideas behind the True Black Hand, and the city of Enoch.

So, I really appreciated this.

I'd love to run a game, or even write a new game revolving around the ideas in this article. But for the moment I'll just add these thoughts to the primal soup of ideas that I'm always drawing inspiration from.

27 April, 2016

I'm kind of surprised

I've had a soft spot for Rifts since I first saw the advertisement hinting at its arrival in a TMNT game book many, many years ago. It was one of those games I really wanted to get into, but almost every experience with it fell flat, and the only time it really started to sing was when we left the Palladium system behind and went freeform.

I like the ideas in the Savage Worlds game system, but I'm not sure how good a fit it is for the gonzo inherent in Rifts. I wasn't sure how well the combination of the two would work, but was happy to see a bit of development, and some innovation finally applied to the setting.

Here's the link

I certainly didn't expect the project to fund in under two minutes, nor reach the level it's now achieved.

It will be interesting to see where things head from here.

One from the vault

Digging through my art supplies as I try to complete a suit of LARP armour, I found this guy.

He's got to be at least 4 years old because I remember sculpting him to this level when I was doing the Goblin Tarot. 

I must get around to finishing him, and giving him a body some day. Maybe he'll be the pilot of a "goblin mecha" cosplay concept I've been thinking about for a few years.

24 April, 2016

Apparently the Goblins are Back

That was a surprise...I've just started receiving new orders for The Goblin Tarot.

So, I guess that means those people who've been interested in the deck will be able to get a copy of it again some time soon as a new print run is organised.

I guess I activated the possibility for orders when I shifted the project to "In Demand" status, so that I could allow people to look at it again. This isn't a bad thing, it's just unexpected. Luckily I have a couple of spare decks in stock.

23 April, 2016


In November of 2014, I was happy that I'd reached 200,000 visitors to the blog. It took me 6 years to reach that level, and I was pretty content with the people who were paying attention to the stuff I had to say.

Now in April 2016, I've just passed 400,000. A lot of that increased traffic came from my regular series of reviews last year during Game Chef, and the various other game design contests, and on the whole I'm still pretty content with the number of people who pay attention to what I have to say.

I'll probably keep posting half-baked design ideas, keep musing on assorted stuff in a range of topics that meander through the territory of my hobbies, maybe offer a few more tutorial runs. It keeps me from getting depressed, and works as a creative outlet in several ways.

Thanks for sticking around everybody.

Musing on Crowdfunding

The last crowdfunded project I developed was almost 5 years ago, and now I'm in the process of organising another.

Bug Hunt has been giving me a lot of thought recently, particularly regarding costs, value for money, and ensuring I have the funds to actually send the relevant perks to everyone. I've been doing my research, and the $50US price point seems pretty common. My manufacturing costs for the game come in at about two-thirds of that for a one-off POD product, and at the best bulk levels through The Game Crafter (TGC) they come in at about half of that. I've received my prototype from TGC and I'm happy with it. I could possibly get a cheaper product from a certain supplier in China, but I haven't dealt with them before.

For the moment though, I'm looking at value for money for anyone who moght buy the game. It's certainly got replay potential in it, it can also be expanded relatively easily (as I've shown by using tthe same game for two differrent uni assignments, once in it's raw form and now submitting the game with an expansion as a second assignment). I look at games on the shelves of department stores, toy stores, pop-culture stores, and specialist gaming retailers. Department stores have the old traditional games like Monopoly™ for $20+, ranging up to pop-culture stores selling versions of Settlers of Catan™ for $80-100. So $50 doesn't seem to bad...it's the postage that kills it.

Luckily, production in the US (where most of my readers, and most of the purchasers of my last project come from) means cheaper postage there which will be absorbed into the base costs, similarly, for my Sydney-region based purchasers it would literally be cheaper and more reliable for me to drop off a few games at various local-bame stores or game-playing groups (offering a demo game in the process, and maybe selling a few extra copies while I'm there), it's other parts of the world that I'm worried about.

My massive, accidentally deleted, post from yesterday went into this in a lot more depth, comparing value for money going to the cinema to gaming products (both board games and RPG books)... then also comparing them and justifying the expense with regards to eating or paying rent. I'm not in the mood to retype that one.

Now I might be missing-in-action for a little while, I've got some demo videos to shoot.

22 April, 2016

Familiar Titles

Sammael, The Desolate One, Lord of the Shadows, Harbinger of Pestilence, Seed of Destruction, Hound of Resurrection.

I've been thinking more about the character edges in this game about familiars. What about giving the characters a series of arcane and esoteric titles? Such titles would give hints to the character's special abilities, but are also fairly vague and generalised.

Here's the first few that I've thought of...

  • Artisan of Primordial Flesh (Wood) – Bonus to transform the appearance of others
  • Diviner of Cosmic Vicissitudes (Air) – Bonus to manipulate probabilities and
  • Defender of the Ivory Citadel (Earth) – Bonus to prevent harm to places or people
  • Hierophant of the Blood (Water) – Bonus to command lesser minds
  • Hound of Resurrection (Wood) – Bonus to heal the injured or restore life to the dead
  • Inquisitor of Divine Radiance (Light) – Bonus to sense things invisible to others
  • Keeper of the Esoteric Library (Water) – Bonus to reveal knowledge through research
  • Oracle of Madness and Shadow (Darkness) – Bonus to confuse people or lose a pursuit
  • Scourge of the Hundredth Legion (Fire) – Bonus when outnumbered in conflict
  • Sentinel of the Ebony Sepulchre (Metal) – Bonus when dealing with spirits and the undead
  • Serpent of Cyclopean Granite (Earth) – Bonus to resist physical and psychological effects
  • The Celestial Troubadour (Air) – Bonus to mimic the appearance of others
  • The Defiant One (Fire) – Bonus to inspire emotions in others
  • The Immortal Artificer (Metal) – Bonus to create items
  • Walker between Nebulous Voids (Darkness) – Bonus to remain hidden
  • Warlord of Blinding Purity (Light) – Bonus to empower arcane objects

The aim would be to produce a sample list, maybe twice as long as this, and offer players the opportunity to make new ones of their own.

Characters would begin with an assortment of titles, some of which they have manifested in the world, some of which may require completed quests before they activate. Characters could even earn new titles through their actions in the story. In this format, a character's "level" is basically equivalent to the number of titles they have earned. They don't have money, don't have any items beyond what they can carry, so the only measure of power that they possess beyond these titles comes through the favour and influence network that centers around them. Actions where a single title might imply a bonus are the hallmarks of these characters, in these cases the familiars might be considered at the peak of human potential. Truly powerful effects may manifest when two or more titles grant benefits that might be applicable to a single action, in these cases supernatural and legendary outcomes might manifest.

These familiars are still spirits, but they exist as metaphysical entities, embodying concepts of power. This power can be shared with mages in the world to establish a connection to the physical realm. The familiars never die, but their physical forms can be temporarily disrupted by hunters and their links to the physical world can be weakened by destroying their favour and influence network.


I just wrote a massive post, and accidentally hit "delete" instead of "publish". 

It was a good one too.

20 April, 2016

Bug Hunt is here!

I tried to do a live unboxing of my prototype, but that didn't quite work out.

I was pleasantly surprised at the speed of the box's arrival, just over a week between finalising the imagery and having it arrive at my doorstep. 

These things are always well packaged, but that's a good thing given the state of some packages I've received in this part of the world.

Naturally, the customs inspectors have to make sure anything brought into the house is thoroughly searched and given the "all-clear".

On the whole, I'm pretty happy with the way the outside of the package has been presented.

Curiously, the automated systems of "The Game Crafter" told me that the game components would be too big to fit in the selected game box, but I actually could have gotten away with a box half the size.

The quality of the cards has seen an improvement with the UV coating, compared to the last cards I ordered as a part of the "Town Guard" game.

Now it's time to start making some play videos. So people can see how the game is meant to run, just in case my rule explanations haven't been clear.


[This post is going to be massive in 2017, when someone else has exactly the same idea]

Once again I find myself thinking of options that might be given to players when defining characters.

If you give players a list of specific ideas that they have to choose from, this implies an automatic flavour in the setting. I've discussed this previously, where a game that gives you a hundred choices for powers and influences related to social intrigue, and four choices for combat options is giving a distinct impression about which type of story is more likely to occur. If you give each of the powers an evocative name relating to the land where such abilities are commonly found, then this says something quite different to a game where each power is named after the person who first developed it (where the first might imply you need to visit such a land to acquire the power or learn it from someone who is a native of that land, which the second may require descent from that person or attendance at a school that they founded). A specific list of choices reigns things in, often subtly, but sometimes overtly.

If you give players the ability to define their own choices, then the opposite effect occurs. Things become less restricted, and the potential for over-the-top/gonzo antics is exponentially increased (that's not to say you can't have over-the-top/gonzo when clearly defined options are presented, but I've just found it more likely when things are more loosely defined).

A lot of my game designs play somewhere between the two extremes...often with a loose description of effect, but a flat mechanical benefit/penalty. Sometimes with clearly defined low level effects but more scope for personalised customisation as higher levels are reached. This applies not only in choices of powers during character generation, but also with regard to choices made during the course of the story unfolding. I probably get a bit of this from "A Penny for my Thoughts", that's one of the places where I first saw the ruling presented in an eloquent manner. I echo this idea in a few different ways in FUBAR.

Naturally, because this is the space I like to play in, I'm thinking that there will be elements in The Familiar's Tale that follow this idea. It adds diversity to a game without needing to add pages and pages of text, and the choices made by players at the table make the game more customised to the specific group playing it. But some kind of element needs to reign things in.

From linguistic and communication studies, I'm looking at the idea of "Offer and Acceptance". This works on the idea that one person deliberately transmits ("offers") a communication, and another person deliberately receives ("accepts") the communication. Without both the offer the acceptance, communication doesn't occur. Traditionally, the offer and acceptance in an RPG are alternately made by the GM/DM/MC and the players. One offers an idea, the other decides whether to run with it, sometimes the offer is filtered through a die roll which may modify the communication in some way, but while it changes the message, the presence of the die roll (or other randomiser) adds gravitas to the communication (thus making it harder to ignore).

Communication can be targeted, with a single person offering their message to a single recipient. It can also be broadcast, with a single message sent in all directions, capable of being accepted by any recipient for whom the communication might be meaningful. I'd like to play with that second idea a bit.

To link the ideas of this post together, ideas are generated through play, they are offered to other people who then have the choice to deny or accept them. But it always takes two people for the communication to occur, one to offer it and one to accept it. The idea is that a person presents ideas that they'd like to see in the story, rather than just ideas that they'd like for themselves. A second person decides if they think that idea is a match for their character, then chooses whether or not to pursue it.

It works a bit like the way standard character generation does in FUBAR, where everyone makes two character sheets. These characters are offered to the centre of the table, and everyone draws out two character sheets, choosing to accept one, and turn the other into a nemesis for the story. But in this instance I'll be using it to generate some quirky powers for the Familiars to pick up, some quests for them to go on, and some other elements of the game.

If I'm playing with the idea of loose intermingling storylines, I'm hoping that this might help to draw the attention of players back into the narrative to hear how their ongoing suggestions are incorporated. Each time a player's narrative "offer" is "accepted" and completed (successfully or otherwise), they gain the opportunity to make a new offering.

Familiar Edges
All of the familiars have a pair of unusual abilities that they may use to manipulate the world around them. Such abilities are fairly general and vague, prompting imaginative ways to incorporate them into the story, and they all have a specific mechanical effect (they turn a partial success into a full success). Each player writes two of these edges down on a piece of paper then adds the paper to a pile, the pile is shuffled, and two edges are distributed out to the players again (if a player gets both of their papers back, everyone returns the papers for a reshuffle). From the two options, a player picks one edge, then defines a second edge of their own.

Familiar Goals
Similarly, everyone writes up a few goals (let's say 3 of them at this stage) that may be sought during play. These are also shuffled, but the GM (if there is one) draws from the pile one by one as goals are needed. Familiars may pursue up to two goals at a time, once one is completed or abandoned, another may be picked up. If a goal is abandoned, another familiar may be capable of pursuing it. If a goal is abandoned twice, it is removed from the game.

I still need to think further on this, but it feels like it will work. Now to link it into the flat circle concept.

18 April, 2016

Weaving individual stories together

One of the most evocative tabletop roleplaying campaigns I ever participated in did not use character sheets, no dice were ever rolled, there was no table. There were three players, each portraying a character. The game system was vaguely a cross between Amber and Mage. We didn't know our character's stats we didn't know their spheres or arete, we just described what our characters did, or what they attempted to do and based on previous descriptions about our characters we slowly worked out where they were less than average, more than average, or where they might be superhuman (and how far to push things if we knew the limits didn't apply to us in specific areas).

The stories of this group of characters were narrated one by one, with the GM portraying the majority of the world for a single character at a time. But to keep things interesting for the other players while their characters were "offstage", each player had a roster of bit characters in each other's stories who would often be called on by the GM.

Over the first two sessions, the players main characters didn't interact with each other at all, but by the end of the second session there were a few instances where a bit character from one story appeared in another character's story. For a modern reference consider the suspected "Night Nurse" character portrayed by Rosario Dawson in both Daredevil and Jessica Jones. A few common places also started to occur, and by the end of the third game, the ramifications from events in one person's story would be felt in the story of another.

I think it was about the fourth story before any of the "main" characters actually met each other... but we knew that the stories were interconnected. As we uncovered elements of side characters, we saw that for one player they might be an ally, for another player a nemesis. We didn't maturally assume that the characters we were portraying would automatically be friends, but we might be allies of convenience in some ways, friendly rivals in other ways, or at each other's throats occasionally.

There were no mechanisms in play to determine who reacted in what way to whom. We just followed the story. That's where I'd be interested in heading with this project.

17 April, 2016

The Familiar's Tale

I had been thinking about this game from the perspective of street mages, maybe it might be better to play with the concept of familiars to street mages.

The reason I've considered this is because I'm not really interested in developing a complex magic system for the game, except as a storytelling effect. Instead I'm thinking that there will be magi who act as conduits reaching from the human side to the mystic energies of the beyond...and there will be familiars who act as conduits from the beyond, reaching toward the mortal realm. Familiars form bonds to magi, each strengthening the link of the other in a symbiotic feedback loop.

This helps explain why the characters don't have money, just a limited number of tools and edges. Familiars don't need to improve with experience, but they may gain stronger influence over the world as they establish stronger relationships with the magi, the eternal constants, and other elements of the setting.

I'm not sure if this is a good direction to be heading, but it feels interesting.

16 April, 2016

Time is a Flat Circle

I had this idea once.

The campaign exists in the form of 12 newsheets, or maybe punk-style 'zines. One for each month of the year. It doesn't matter which month you start with, there are news articles, hot bands to look out for, underground happenings, street commentary, and insight into the world. You start with one month, and certain events will be echoed in the next month's 'zine. A single story thread might spread along two, three, four issues. The characters will encounter things that are at their climax, other things that a developing beyond their control, and other situations that are just starting to unfold.

Each 'zine would have dozens of such stories, where one event might lead to two or three potential offerings in the next issue, and two of three seemingly unrelated stories might reveal different perspectives or opening into a single large event in the next issue.

It doesn't matter where you start in the cycle of 12 issues. But you go through the issues in a single campaign of 12 sessions, one per issue and the game ends.

Thematically you could run with a concept of spring = growth, summer = maturity, autumn = decay, winter = death before rebirth, but you don't have to because different stories will be at different stages of their life-cycles simultaneously.

This could be done really lo-fi... photocopied sheets stapled together with a slightly thicker photocopied sheet in some coloured card as the cover. Maybe some garish use of highlighters, or paper cut outs. Some vulgarity, because "this shit ain't mainstream, so it's don;t need to be f&ckin' nice!!"...That might really work with the Minimalist Rentpunk thing I've got stuck in my head at the moment.

Then I'd think about a second set of recon reports from a classified agency beyond the reach of mundane laws and beyond the scope of understanding for the mooks on the street. Such reports would perfectly mimic the 'zines, but from the angle of "peacekeeping technocrats" who have a daily job of keeping the world tidy and preventing psychic overflow from cascading across the streets. You run one campaign as the rentpunk street mages (carefully noting the things that slip between the cracks, and the paradoxes that should cause problems in the world), then a second campaign of 12 months as the peacekeepers (cleaning up those messes and rectifying those paradoxes).

Or, if you were that way inclined, you could run the two groups alternately (or even simultaneously).

15 April, 2016

Not so Minimalist Urban Rentpunk

I've been trying to expand the Rentpunk game in the last post, maybe doubling the word count to 400 words. Trying to make it more coherent and add in a few new ideas, possibly turn this into the game that links in with the landscape images I've been drawing over the last few weeks.

Whether this means the game becomes about rentpunk street mages, drawing power from other realities as defined by those lands, or maybe it becomes a game where they go voyaging in those lands as spirit quests to fulfill their obligations to patrons in the mortal realm who are unable to transcend the boundaries of our space and time.

Once again, I find myself with fragments of ideas, but nothing altogether coherent.

Maybe I need to sleep on it.

14 April, 2016

Mimimalist Urban Rentpunk

A new 200 word RPG for urban fantasy magi on the down low.

Minimalist Urban Rentpunk
Character Sheet
Allocate dice to Attributes – d6, d8, d10, d12
Attributes – Combat, Influence, Knowledge, Magic
An item
A food
2 edges
3 people who owe you favours

2x Goal Sheet
What do you want? [] (edge/equipment gained)
What’s stopping you? [][][] (accumulate 3 successes/marks before attempt to claim it)
If complete, write new goal.

Day divided into 4 sections – Morning, Afternoon, Evening, Night
Everyone gets a single action scene during each section. Choose person to describe scene, then choose who describes scene’s challenge. Difficulty for scene challenge based on number of scenes character has been awake. First = d4, Second = d6, Third = d8, Fourth = d10, Fifth+ = d12

Failure: Your die < difficulty die
Partial Success: Your die > difficulty die (risk favour/equipment [lost/damaged unless 4+ on d6], or use edge to succeed)
Full success – Your die > difficulty die x2
Success earns new favour, finds food or damaged item, repairs item, or achieves/marks goal

If Section spent asleep, choose…
Unsafe: (reset awake count, roll to regain skills [4+ on d6], erase a mark on each goal sheet)
Safe: Use favour, barter away equipment, or eat food (as unsafe sleep but all skills return)

(Updated to change a few things that weren't particularly clear, such as mechanics for favour and equipment risks, and a few word rearrangements.)

New series?

I wonder if anyone is interested in a step-by-step tutorial series about making foam and fibreglass LARP armour. It'd be a week or two away, because I need to buy some more fibreglassing supplies.

12 April, 2016

Bug Hunt Proofing

Bug Hunt has been sent for proofing.

Roughly $35 manufacturing cost, roughly $40 to get it sent from the US to my place in Australia.

I really wanted to get the game ready as a Kickstarter or Indiegogo project, but with those costs and the way the Australian dollar is going at the moment, that works out to $100 a game in this part of the world.

I'm looking at maybe running with a $50 retail for the game, with free shipping to the US. Then adding an extra $20 for shipping to Australia, which hopefully means I'll break even on the games shipped to Australia. I'm told shipping inside the US will cost $6-10, so I'll make a little bit of profit on those games.

This project will only make me some money to cover a minimal level of additional stock to sell at conventions (and give to playtesters as a reward for their services), if bulk discounts kick in. According to rough estimates, by the time I've sold 10 units, I'd be able to cover the cost of an extra game for myself...at around 50 units I might be able to cover 10 extra games.

With those numbers in mind, I'd be looking at a minimum crowdfunding of $2500, with any stretch goals occurring at $3500+ for something small (like a linen finish on all the cards), and $5000+ before something significant is added to the project (like an expansion set of cards).

Those numbers don't seem too exorbitant compared to a lot of the crowdfunded projects I've seen.

Maybe I'm missing something.


10 April, 2016

Gender Imbalance in a Game

I'm doing a university assignment on educational diversity, and the specific troubles certain groups face in the world. I'm using my Bug Hunt game as the framework for this project, since I know it works, and it has a solid educational basis with three distinct levels of play for different player types (novice, intermediate, expert).

Since this game project is meant to be an educational experience, I foresee that a lot of the groups in my class will be developing traditional roll-and-move games where trivia questions about social justice issues allow extra die rolls if answered correctly. I foresee a few groups developing concepts where asymmetrical sees one player with an advantage, while the others act disadvantaged...like the meme about Monopoly where one player starts with 90% of the cash and most of the properties, while everyone else fights over the remainder. Unlike Monopoly, I want a game that's fun...a game that teaches things through emergent play and interaction of the rules, rather than through a specific set of rules written in black and white. I think the lessons should be implicit rather than explicit. If a student learns it for themselves by understanding the way the patterns fall into place, they'll be more inclined to internalize the lesson than if they had it preached at them.

The rest of the group has decided that the issue our game will focus on is "Gender and Sexuality".

Now I'm just trying to work out the best way to incorporate this into the game's design.

08 April, 2016


The new Southern Highlands LARP Game has a name. It is called Nexus, and the organiser has released a rule set and character generation system for it.

Character Generation


All in all it's pretty similar to what we've been seeing in a lot of the LARPs through this part of the world. This is basically because a group of guys wrote the original set of rules that everyone has spun away from. I've discussed this previously (and as a follow up to that post, the last Elgardt Game we ran had a total of 2 people showing up...me the Storyteller/GM, and the Venue Co-ordinator).

There's a few interesting concepts in the rules that have been considered taboo in many of the other local games, like the potential for permanent character death if you aren't careful. There's a few other things that personally I'd be changing, but at the moment I'm happy for there to be another game to go along to.

A bit of playtesting and we'll see how things go.

Now I just need to get back to work on a suit of armour.

07 April, 2016

Crossroad Fables

I worked out what I was trying to remember as I was cooking home made hamburgers with havarti cheese, pineapple, bacon, mustard, rocket, home made salsa and home grown tomatoes.

I was reading Andrew Knapp's Tales of the Scarecrow review a couple of days ago, and thought that this seemed like one of the things I do quite often in my games. I haven't specifically read the module reviewed, but I'm probably going to buy a copy of it at some stage. What I have done though, is try to formulate a 200 word supplement that captures the essence of how I'd introduce this kind of concept into a game. You could possible use it a game unto itself, but it's really more of an exercise for injecting flavour and character into a locale that the characters are passing through.

I've written the first draft of 200 words. There might be another draft before the concept is submitted as my official "supplement" entry into the challenge.


Nope. I opened up the blog to write something that had been festering away at the back of my mind a couple of hours ago...and I just can't remember what it was now that I've got a few minutes to start typing.

There might be another post in a couple of hours if I can think of it then.

06 April, 2016

Fantasy RPG Design Challenge

Like I said at the start of the month, it's that time of year again... Competition season.

We kicked off with the 200 word RPG Challenge, and now +Brent Newhall gives us "The Fantasy RPG Design Challenge"...

Here's the details so far...

The Fantasy RPG Design Challenge will expand this year.

The goal: Spur the creation of fantasy RPGs that avoid fantasy tropes. Designers will have to avoid both fluff tropes (elves, dwarves, magic swords, etc.) and mechanical tropes.

To that end, I will post increasingly difficult challenges every couple of months. The next challenge, which I will launch in 2 weeks, will add to the list of fluff tropes by requiring a default setting other than something similar to Medieval Europe. That's not the only change, either.

Later challenges will target D&D-style mechanics. 

I have ideas for even more interesting challenges than that later on. So find your design hat and start thinking!

05 April, 2016

Social Injustice?

Yes, it's a bit of a "click-baity" title, but it's something I've been thinking about lately, and this whole "White Male Gamers as Terrorists" thing has fed into that (The article and the issues around it have been addressed by Wyrd). The problem is that I've seen a lot of people point the blame at Wyrd, but have seen far worse offences and atrocities commited by Games Workshop. I'm not saying that the volunteer representatives  of Wyrd (or employees, depending on whom you ask) get a free pass because Games Workshop does it worse.

As a graduate of Social and Cultural analysis with a minor in sociolingustics, I know that communications can be important, and that messagess can vary depending on the context of the speaker, and the implied context of the listener. I've tried to make a neutral comment regarding the experiences of my wife and I in regard to similar issues, and people latch onto the neutrally-intended "female" which I used in my comment. Is this just a case of women/ladies/girls just looking for something to be offended about when I'm actually trying to be supportive? Is it a legitimate response to "mansplaining" on my part? I've tried to use terminology that I thought would be "safe" but recipients have brought their own preconcieved notions to the table for that particular word and applied those preconcieved notions in a prejudicial way... that's right, they didn't look deeper into the context, have not apologised for bringing such notions into play (consciously or unconsciously), so naturally there is going to be an impasse. Trying to discuss it further will see people blocked and all those negative things that often come to the fore on social media.

Yes, there is toxic masculinity in the roleplaying and tabletop gaming community. Yes, members of the community look to other communities focused around cars, or football, or comics, and say that "those other guys are worse than us, why are you pocking on me?" Yes, there should be an end to it, but the very nature of toxic masculinity sees the blame put on others and often a distinct inability to engage in introspection.

But attacking people over semantics isn't the answer either, that's just doubling down and making it harder to hold a sensible dialogue over the issues.

Rant over.

03 April, 2016

Box Cover Design

We're getting closer to a formal launch for Bug Hunt.

Here's the cover...

...a few more tweaks and it should be ready to go.

02 April, 2016

The Journey

Here's a link to my preliminary draft of...

"The Journey"

It comes in at 200 words, but there are symbols in the text that simply won't work for the 200 Word RPG Challenge, because the challenge states that entries need to be submitted in plain text.

So it's currently sitting in a state that is too formatted for the challenge, but not formatted enough for me to be happy releasing it as a formal game product.

I want to add a few more manga/anime-styled pictures to it, describing characters journeying across a desolate landscape, or toward a high-tech city.

It's live

The 200 Word RPG Challenge for 2016 has started, and already entries are starting to trickle in.

I might review a few of these, depending on how I go for time.

I've started working on a concept that I'm calling "The Journey" at the moment, it's current bang on 200 words and I'm working on some layout for it because the last game design contest entry I offered (for the Threeforged challenge last year) really suffered due to a lack of attention in this regard.

Give me a couple of days and I should have something pretty on offer.

01 April, 2016

Making Things Deliberately Unfair

One of my long suffering backburner projects has been "Bug Hunt", a little game about kids chasing insects and other bugs in a swamp. It's been a fun little game involving a bit of luck, a bit of strategy and a bit of double dealing.

I've just spent the last few hours working on cards for the game and rewriting the rules according to the playtest updates it's seen over the past year. It's going to form the cornerstone for a university assignment I've been working on with a group of other students (I hate group work, but they're letting me take the lead on this one).

The thing about this particular University project is that it's for a subject about diversity and social injustice. I need to create a game that is inherently unbalanced so that players can see what it's like to be in a situation where things just aren't fair.

Originally, Bug Hunt purely had little girls chasing the bugs, this was to give the game a point of difference. Now I'm using a mixture of male and female bug hunters, with distinctly gendered mechanics. First you choose if you want to play a boy or a girl, and pick what family they are from (there will probably be a bunch of cards depicting the various bug hunters)...then the imbalanced mechanics are applied over the top of the game. This way players won't know who has the advantage until it happens. There's a 50/50 chance that boys or girls get the advantage in play, and if we have 4 different families then we can have 8 variants...4 variants giving the advantage to boys and 4 variants giving it to girls. One of each variant for girls and boys will give another significant advantage to different families.

Since I'm looking at applying two levels of imbalance into the game, one gendered and one socio-economically based, I want them to feel different.

In the game, a bug hunter who accumulates too much bug toxin finishes their turn, loses their bugs, passes out, and goes back to the start. Once this happens, they build up a bit of immunity to the toxin, to mitigate some of the negative feedback loop that would otherwise occur. Here's where I think the gendered mechanism might come into play.

If the boys have the advantage, we play on the toxic masculinity syndrome and say "Boys are Tougher than Girls", they start with extra resistance to the toxin and can therefore stay in the field to collect bugs longer. If the girls have the advantage, we say "Girls are more Careful than Boys", and in this case the advantage is exactly the same with the girls having extra resistance to the toxin. 

The socio-economic imbalance in the game would be more overt. If the aim of the game is to collect bugs, a single family will be considered the wealthiest, and those hunters who belong to that family will be granted bonus bugs to start the game with. Let's say they get a bonus bug per player in the game. So in a 2 player game they start with 2 bugs, in a 3 player game they start with 3, etc... The game ends when all of the bugs available bugs have been collected. Everyone then compares who has the largest matching set of bugs. The wealthy hunters will be more likely to have a larger matching set simply by virtue of having more bugs, and thus will be more likely to win.

The playtests happening so far with this deliberate imbalance mechanism have proven reasonably effective.

It's that time of year again

The 200 word RPG challenge is just around the corner, and that means the start of the game design contest season.

I managed to churn out quite a bit last year, as well as peruse some awesome design work by dozens of other game creators.

I'm thinking that this year Imight try to design a 200 word Boffer LARP. That should be interesting.