Showing posts from May, 2016

Getting LARP politics happening

I ran a reasonable successful LARP over the weekend, the biggest so far for the Southern Highlands LARP group (working under the campaign name of Nexus). We had a total of 9 players, which is enough to start seeing some factionalism develop. I tend to believe that factions start to appear in a game once it reaches about 7 players, you get three players on each side and a wandering free agent. With nine players you might get 3 factions of 3, or you might get smaller factions of a few twos, and a larger faction of three players. This is the point where things really start to fall into place for a small LARP...of course things get more interesting with more players, but everything needs to start somewhere.

The first game we had (with 6 players) was basically run as a loose exploration quest. Look for the item, try to retrieve the item, then decide what to do with the item when it is made available (by unlocking it). This game I wanted to push things a bit further and develop some politi…

Some Walkabout Inspiration

I've had a few people ask me when I'm going to get back into my work on Walkabout.


For the moment, here's some inspiration...

Indigenous Australian Creation Stories

Magic and Familiars (Part 4)

Magic is rarely spoken about in plain terms, it always seems to be veiled in analogy, hidden behind layers of metaphor, and cloaked in riddles. Some claim that this is the case because true practitioners of magic don't want novices wielding power they don't truly understand, others claim that those who have power simply don't want to share that power, the. There are those who claim that lesser minds simply couldn't handle the true nature of magic, and it's only through understanding riddles like zen koans that the mind becomes disciplined enough to truly comprehend the complexities underlying reality.

One or more of these reasons may be true. Different reasons might be true for different people, perhaps it is simply a tradition that has built up over the centuries... a tradition that has become notoriously hard to break, like industries where "paying one's dues" are considered a part of the process of integrating into the culture. While mortal practit…

Magic and Familiars (Part 3)

Among the conglomerate of beliefs and rituals known in the west collectively as Hinduism, there is a notion that all of reality exists both simultaneously and constantly. Following this notion, science reveals the truth of reality, and anything accepted by the process of science is accepted as a fundamental reality in the universe. But an analogy for the act of perceiving reality through science is peering through a keyhole at a room on the other side... everything viewed is accepted as the truth, but there is so much that simply cannot be seen from such a limited point of view. Beyond the scope of science's keyhole beliefs may vary, but that which has been verified by science should not be doubted unless new verified information comes to light. In this view, religion is a systematised pattern of belief about what exists in the unknowable realms of reality unrevealed by the narrow perspective of the keyhole. Fundamentalist religion believes that only the original pinprick shows th…

Game Chef International Time Zones

+Stentor Danielson has posted the time limt for this year's Game Chef contest, and curiously it has gone with a staggered effect lining up with different times in different parts of the world.

One week until Game Chef! I hope everyone is excited for this year's competition. Game Chef 2016 will run from June 4 to June 12. Like last year, we're starting it at midnight New Zealand time and ending at midnight Hawaii time to give everyone the maximum amount of time to work on their game. That means the dates are:

New Zealand: June 4, midnight (start of day)
UK: June 3, 1 PM
USA (Eastern): June 3, 8 AM
USA (Pacific): June 3, 5 AM
Hawaii: June 3, 2 AM

New Zealand: June 13, 10 PM
UK: June 13, 11 AM
USA (Eastern): June 13, 6 AM
USA (Pacific): June 13, 3 AM
Hawaii: June 12, midnight (end of day)

It doesn't really give more time to work on games. In fact, if my calculations are right, it gives designers 2 hours less than previous years to work on stuff compared to previous years. …

Magic and Familiars (Part 2)

For a practitioner of magic to claim their power is purely the result of hard work and natural talent it isn't exactly a lie, but more of a convenient omission of certain facts (whether through deliberate obfuscation, or ignorance), this is somewhat like a rich entrepreneur claiming that their success was purely the result of perseverance and business acumen. Such tales inspire a myth of the practitioner, something that can be exploited in the naive. In truth, there are a number of factors known to contribute to a successful practitioner of magic, and far more suspected factors that seem have a propensity toward effective practice, but not always. The deep metaphysical yearning, sometimes called ennui, is the strongest known factor, but it's appearance seems erratic, almost random, across the population. A second known factor for a practitioner's potential is the acceptance of a specific mystic path, either through the tutelage of a mentor or the reading of a grimoire, tho…

Magic and Familiars (Part 1)

Magic has been a focal topic for scholars, mystics, occultists and theologians for centuries. The theories behind magic have evolved as they have responded to changes in the world, both social and environmental. Texts have been written, proven, gained favour, lost favour, been debunked, and been refound by new generations. Authors have been persecuted by the powers of the day, whether church, scientists, or military. The only commonality among those drawn to the mysteries of the arcane is the fact that they are outsiders. Those who feel their needs satisfied by the status quo do not yearn for deeper mysteries or hidden knowledge to fill a void in their lives, they live oblivious to the strangeness in their midst except for the occasional instinctive urge, flash of deja vu, or remarkable circumstances processed mentally as mere coincidence or happenstance.

If the middle classes are content with their lot in life, reined in by a herd mentality, kept in check by threats from invisible an…

Pocketmod familiars

The last post I made gave a brief structure of an 80 page rulebook. That was basically the outline for the familiar game concept I've been toying with over the last couple of weeks (which is in turn an evolution of the quirky rentpunk based die mechanism that formed the basis of my "200 Word RPG Contest" entry). It's quite an expansion to go from 200 words to 80 pages.

I'm not changing the 80 page plan (possibly expanding to 96 pages with a 16 page introductory comic), what I am thinking about now is a stripped back introductory version of the game. A pocketmod version of the rules, with a series of pocketmod pre-generated characters, along with some half pocketmods written up with pre-generated supporting characters, and some locations and quest ideas. Enough to get a one shot happening, maybe a convention game...but basically a teaser and promo for the full 80 page game.

For the moment though, assignments on the issues entwined with Indigenous education need co…

Size of rulebook?

I'm thinking 80 pages.

About 4 pages for all that stuff at the front..titles, publishing details, contents

Followed by an 8-page Chapter 1, giving a rough overview of the world, who the characters are, what they're aiming towards, what they tend to do to get there, and what's stopping them.

A 16-page Chapter 2, describing the process of setting up play, defining the realm where the stories will unfold, the characters (main cast and supporting roles) who will be involved in those stories, and the specific places and items that will be important within the stories.

A 30-page Chapter 3, describing how mundane actions are perform (and separately how magical actions are performed), followed by how those actions build up into complete narratives. Since the actions are freeform, but players can define specific actions/spells that have been practiced to gain a more consistent outcome, the last half of this chapter will consist of sample actions and spells that might be picked up b…


If this doesn't inspire you to make maps with elaborate little flourishes, or turn out maps that are nothing but flourishes, then nothing will.

One more 3000 word essay to write, then I can get back to some personal work like cartography and new game design.

Some animated inspiration

This came across my radar today, and I just had to share.

It comes from, which is the site of Sonja Langskjaer.

Between this animation, and some of the others on the site, there are some great ideas for spiritual/animalistic hi-jinx of the type I'm thinking for the familiar game.

Fantastic Four

+Stan Shinn just posted this great little set up system for integrating characters with the world they are in, and giving them some motivation for an upcoming story.

It really links in with a few of the ideas I've been working through lately, especially with regard to the game about rentpunk mystical familiars.
Continuing my series on low-prep RPG games, this morning I’ll talk about the Fantastic Four technique.
One great way to get player-generated ideas for adventures and campaigns is to ask the Fantastic Four questions.
Hand out four cards to each of your players. Each card should have one to three sentences describing a person or objective.
The first card is a Friend NPC who can be anything from a drinking buddy to a contact in the local royal court. These NPCs can be patrons, plot hooks, or just for fun roleplaying.
The second card is a Family member, an NPC related to the PC. The GM can imperil a family member to create tension and motivation for an adventure.
The third card…

The pointy end of the semester

Inundated with university assignments at the moment.

Not much time to write much, especially when I'm a bit jaded over the work I've put into Bug Hunt (only to have it appreciated neither by external groups, not by the University academics to whom it has been recently focused).

Once things slow down, I think I'm going to go back to my maps and landscapes... specifically focusing on redrawing a series of mapping tutorials, and finalising that series of landscape imagery.

We'll see how things go over the next week or two.

Time to pull things out?

Sorry...rant in progress.

I do things. I make those things public. Occasionally I hope to make a little bit of money from those things so I can focus more on those things rather than the day to day mundane tasks that earn me the necessary money to survive in the world.

I look at what other people are asking for things. I don't think my requests are most cases I actually think my requests are quite modest. But people ignore my things...or they loot the free things I offer, and ignore any requests for support so that I can continue making new things...then to have sand kicked in my face while I'm already pretty low, I see things that I presented to the world offered by other people a year or two later, in mounds of adoration and heaped praise. Or I see other people making things that vary the themes I offered, and they pull in money by the bucketload.

I can't pull the "I'm in a minority" card, I can't pull the "But I'm a female gam…

Bug Hunt has been Live for a Day.

The project is live at the Bug Hunt Indiegogo Page, but I'm not sure for how much longer that will be the case. One of my fears about the existing cost structure of Bug Hunt is the high cost of postage around the world and the relatively high manufacturing cost of a POD game.

The $50 price point is a powerful psychological barrier, it's also basically the break even point for this project...until postage is added in and then conversion rates applied. The basic level I think I need to break even on an Australian sale ends up at almost $90 Australian, and that's way beyond the psychological $50 barrier. It basically ends up as the cost of a small group of friends going to the cinema (without setting up a mortgage to pay for popcorn and drinks)...but that cost is spread out among a number of people.

The fact that it can be played multiple times reduces the "cost per hour of entertainment" factor, but that initial outlay is the kicker. I wish there were a way I could…

The Familiar's Tale (state of play)

I've been tinkering with the new system that started as a "minimalist" system, it has followed the typical pattern of rule bloat, dramatic pruning, then more rule bloat in an ongoing cycle. 

Looking at its current form, the core mechanisms are working a bit like a reverse Apocalypse engine. 

Instead of waiting for a move to become appropriate (or angling the fiction to make a move appropriate), it is designed to generate moves on the fly. Instead of rolling dice with a fairly static difficulty then choosing which results apply based on the die roll, it rolls variable dice depending on what is being attempted. Instead of rolling 2d6 then adding a modifier after dice are rolled but before determining an outcome, it rolls different sized dice, integrating a variety of difficulties and skill levels into a single roll, also taking into account the potential outcomes before the dice are rolled.
All in all I'm trying to keep it minimalist, keep it operating in such a way tha…

Bug Hunt Video

My first video project has been completed...

...not perfect, but not bad for a first effort.

Good Die and Bad Die

Years ago...actually decades ago, I had a friend who ran a very simple game system that he called "Good Die, Bad Die". It basically worked on the idea that you added your good die (a d6) to your ability score, and a bad die (also a d6) to the difficulty score. So you wanted your good die to roll high, and your bad die to roll low. If you rolled doubles you'd generally succeed (regardless of the other numbers involved), but there would be an unexpected story twist. Ability scores ranged from 1 to 5, difficulties ranged from 1 to 5 (but sometimes you'd need multiple successful attempts to complete complex tasks, and ashe refined the system sometimes if your total end result was more than 4 points above the total difficulty result you might have earnt multiple successes on a single action attempt).

Characters were defined by three or four things that they were really good at (ability scores of 4+), a few things they weren't bad at (ability scores of 2-3), and a scat…

One Page Dungeon

The first time I participated in the "One Page Dungeon" contest, I was a finalist. I tried to do something innovative that would work with any system (as per the contest brief). That was two years ago.

The second time I participated in the contest, I was just one of the pack. Again, I tried to do something innovative, but it was basically ignored. It felt like the only dungeons doing well in the contest last year were written for OSR, or more specifically written only to be used with pseudo-D&D retroclones. I don't remember anything much generic doing well. That was last year.

So when the contest came around this year, I had a passing interest in it, but I didn't bother entering. I figured I might throw something together if I had the chance, or didn't have better things to do. But better things (or more pressing concerns) continually took priority. I don't feel bad about not entering, I probably would have tried to do something innovative and fairly gene…

Captain America - Civil War

Saw it last night.

Enjoyed it.

I don't know how well I would have enjoyed it as a stand-alone film. It really required a lot of the depth that has been built up in the previous movies produced by Marvel, but having seen each of the other films in the series (several of them many times over) it was great to see assorted pieces falling into place.

Great introduction of characters into the Marvel Cinematic Universe without needing to go through the whole routine of origin stories. I'm hoping the follow up movies for the characters introduced don't go back and do retrospective origin stories.

I'll leave it at that for the moment, because I know there are parts of the world where it hasn't had it's opening weekend yet.