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Showing posts from June, 2016

An RPG about social intrigue or obscure lore

In Familiar, I've got four attributes... combat, knowledge, influence, and magic. The game is all about mystical familiars, so it's natural that magic gets far more detail than the other three attributes. But when I woke up this morning, the realisation hit me that it could be just as easy to focus on any of the other three attributes. A game expanding the options for the combat attribute would be par for the course with most mainstream RPGs. But I think it would actually be more interesting to develop separate games that really delve into the worlds of the influence attribute (through social intrigue, political manuevering, mass media, and cultural etiquette) or the knowledge attribute (through investigation, hidden lore, arcane science, and theoretical knowledge.

Such games would be complimentary, but since Familiars are creatures of magic, the other attributes don't really form the focus of their adventures. The all-rounders would probably be regular people who can gain…

A Game or a Toolkit?

I've come to the conclusion that my "Familiar" game is actually more of a toolkit for facilitating play. I'm using it to provide a set of tools that can be modified theough the course of play to produce a range of play experiences that are customised by the GM and players to best suit the stories they are trying to tell.

From this perspective, a game would be a fully packaged and prewritten set of rules with a specific setting designed to tell a specific type of story regardless of what the players want.

Some players love the idea of tightly focused sets of rules that each tell distinctly different types of stories. Such players really try to get into the designer's head to understand the types of stories that the designer is attempting to relate. Other players look at a set of tight rules and if it tells a story they're uncomfortable with, don't like, or simply can't comprehend...they either butcher the game completely or ignore it. Tight games are d…

Supporting some fine English folks

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I'm an Australian of strong Scottish heritage, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate the fine work of some great English game designers and manufacturers of miniatures. No, I'm not talking about Games Workshop... I'm talking about the independent guys, who are going to probably face a tough couple of years in the near future with the whole status of the UK with regard to the EU kerfuffle.

I'm not going to get into the politics of it here. I generally save my rants about politics and religion for Facebook. What I know of a lot of them, I think I know how they probably voted.
My only thoughts with this post are to let thewider community know about them, and maybe point a few sales in their direction to help them out as uncertainty looms (also helping the rest of us out while the British Pound is the weakest it's been for quite some time). 
First up, I'm thinking of Mark Bednall from Grey Matter Figures who produces one of my favourite pieces of resin e…

Too many moving parts are confusing

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One of the annoying things about big rulebooks is the way numerous intricate parts of the rules are meant to connect together in one seamless device of elegant complexity...it's annoying because I've invariably found that one or two rules are ignored, forgotten about, or simply put aside (due to their lack of obvious significance to the overall structure), and then other parts of the system don't quite work the way they should and the whole game degenerates into a session of ad-libs and half remembered rulings. Certainly not what the designer intended, I'm sure.



I try not to add too many fiddly bits into my game designs, but regular readers will know that this is something I struggle with. I always want to add in an extra little bit here and there to reflect something that I think is cool at the time. Then the extra bit grows, then another one...and eventually I have to prune the system back to basics. Sometimes the refined system is back at square one, sometimes it lo…

New Mapping Tutorials

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I haven't posted much this week because I've been violently ill. That means there hasn't been an influx of people looking at my recent posts, but a more general view of what people who don't know me look at. Or at least, it's shown which parts of this blog are most linked by the world outside.

People seem to come to me for the mapping tutorials.
So, I'll push my Patreon in that direction. Maybe producing a mothly tutorial booklet on a given theme... 8 pages, of mixed text and images. First offered in an 8 page hi-res 600dpi A4 through the Patreon, then released in a reduced resolution form (100 dpi?) A4 at a single page, twice per week.
With that in mind, here's some preliminary map work I've been developing for the "Familiar" game. 


This is basically using the 3D software Bryce to block in some buildings for a city section. These blocks will be traced and detailed by hand as I put together the core setting for the game... a neglected section …

Snowballing

One of the common threads in many narratives is the notion that things start small and gradually accumulate momentum until they become dramatic (and in the case of many roleplaying sessions push into gonzo territory).

There seem to be a few methods aiming toward that kind of narrative arc at the moment. Different games call them different things, but generally a common theme among new "innovations" is the concept of a clock, where elements of the story cause the clock to "tick" toward a conclusion or climax. sometimes there might be some kind of associated mechanism that causes the clock to "tick backwards" and reduce the tension, but more often than not in the examples I've seen the clock ticks in one direction only toward a story conclusion.

It's one of those things that we'e been doing in many roleplaying sessions for decades, but now we seem to be seeing more formalized ways of doing it. Or perhaps it's just that these methods are bein…

Lycanthropic Inspiration

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One of my first live roleplaying experiences was portraying a naive young werewolf. I wouldn't say that my character was led astray by +Klaus Teufel but things certainly became a lot more interesting after our two stories became entwined.

Lycanthrope stories have always inteested me. Whether the werewolves and Loup Garou of european folklore, the Kitsune of Japanese tales, the shapeshifting coyote trickers found in the legends of many Native American groups, African Spider shifters (Ananasi), the many anthropomorphed animals of Native Australian folklore, and many others found across the Pacific and various other parts of the world.

The scope for playing these variant animal types from around the world was one of the things I loved about Werewolf: the Apocalypse, and one of the things that I really thought was missing when White Wolf shifted to Werewolf: the Forsaken. They might have been added in later books for the game, but the first few books that I looked at just seemed to a…

Post Game Chef Thoughts

I've been asked to develop an ongoing post-apocalyptic LARP based on my thoughts last week. That means I'll be incorporating a few elements from my previous attempt at a game like this (a project tentatively titled "Can of Beans"), with a few elements from my Walkabout project, and the basic structure of the last LARP system I developed.

Basically that means that every character will be defined by a culture and a series of occupational stepping stones that build up a life path and give abilities along the way. There will be a range of starting occupations, and then a series of advanced occupations that may only be entered during the course of play as character meet certain requirement or achieve specificin game objectives.

The core cultures for the game will be:
Scavengers - who pick from the ruins of the old cities to make new lives of their own
Nomads - who travel the ancient highways, always moving and trading with the settled folks
Tribalists - who have returned …

Annual Birthday Sale

I can't remember if Vulpinoid Studios has had a birthday sale before. I'm pretty sure we might have, but I can't find evidence of it. It's something I hope to do every year for the week when my birthday occurs. 25% off everything in the RPGNow shopfront, and discounts wherever else the designs from Vulpinoid Studios can be found. Now, I need to start working on some more designs and artwork, so that the birthday sale can be even bigger next year.

Game Chef Thoughts (Part 7)

Life has just gotten in the way and I haven't had much chance to do more on my Game Chef entry.

As I sit here, there are 35 hours until the contest deadline. I've started writing some stuff for the entry, but it certainly not going to be anywhere near as good as I had originally hoped. I've got more stuff that I need to do today, so I can't see a lot of that time being spent on further development.

Maybe I'll try to put together a stripped back version.

Strangely, after this week I've got free time again. So I might try to work through my own series of reviews, like I did last year. It's always good to see what other people are producing.

Nexus Logo

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Not eveything can be Game Chef this week. I need to keep my mind active on a few projects otherwise I go stir crazy.

Here's a logo design I've been working on for the Nexus LARP.

Game Chef Thoughts (Part 6)

I loke the idea of evolving story needs to match character development, and vice versa as a symbiotic feedback loop. In a game of 100+ players, that can prove problematic.

The typical sweet-spot for RPGs, 4-5 players, allows for individuals to pull against the collective centre of the story for a short time, before someone else pulls the collective centre in their direction. The whole story is a dynamic tension between the players, the GM and the rule set. In a 100+ player game, a single person trying to pull the story in a given direction finds it much harder to make significant impact due to the overwhelming inertia of so many other players. If a player wants to pull the story in a given direction, they need to gather a band of like minded companions to help. It's still possible, but it tends to take a group to derail things rather than an individual.
To link character develop and story into such a large framework means minimising a lot of the minutiae, otherwise there is simply…

Game Chef Thoughts (Part 5)

I played in a game at a convention back in 1994, the premise was simple... Shadowrun. I think we were playing as a group of runners masquerading as a medical team in a stolen ambulance, we were conducting a heist for some drugs. 
For some reason this game only ran when there were two sessions running simultaneously. We're going through the game with a GM, in a small university lecture hall (because the convention was held at a uni). The GM wore a headset, and every now and then a second GM with a headset would wander into the room, chat with our GM and then wander back out again. Getting quick glimpses through the door, we could see a stragetic map with figures all over it that wasn't really meant for our eyes... I think in retrospect that we were meant to have seen the map, but not necessarily the fine details on it.
Roughly halfway through the game, the second GM comes in with someone we all know, someone who was playing that second game. He looks a bit surprised as he enters …

Game Chef Thoughts (Part 4)

One of the key ideas in an Australian Freeform is the idea of a relationship network that drives story. I'm going to be overlaying that concept over the NERF war to heighten the intrigue and the tension.

This can be done a couple of ways. One method is to simply give each and every person a customised character booklet (often running to 5-6 pages), where one page describes the setting, a second page describes the public lead-up to the event, a third page is a specific character background written individually for each character, a fourth page describes the public personae of the characters present, while the fifth (and sixth) page give individual relationship details between the character and the significant others they've previously had dealings with. Another method sees simple faction sheets given to players...if you belong to faction W, here's what your people tend to say about factions X, Y and Z. The thing that is important ere is that no character knows every other c…

Game Chef Thoughts (Part 3)

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While it was an indie darling for a while, 3:16 is a silly game on many levels. It's simple, it's about killing aliens, it replicates the source material (Aliens, Starship Troopers, Warhammer 40k) pretty well... and it's got a hell of a subversive twist hidden in its pages.

I love it.

I'm really thinking of doing something similar with this massive combat game. The game begins by setting the tone as a war between the homelanders (formerly described as "natives") and the invaders (formerly described as the "colonials"). These names will be further subject to change, I'm sure.



Homelanders have foam weapons, they may fulfil quests or "cash-in" invader kills with their local shaman to gain bonuses...or they may trade NERF bullets they've scavenged for other benefits.



Invaders have NERF guns, they may pick up their bullets to refill their own guns, and may "cash-in" homelander kills with their superior officers to gain bonuse…

Game Chef Thoughts (Part 2)

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There has been a wildly successful series of massive live action games run in Sydney (and recently Melbourne) over the past few years. This series of games is referred to as Zed-Town, and I know some of the organisers. The first games saw around 100 players, the most recent game in May 2016 saw 630. It is a ticketed event and sold out in minutes.



The general premise of the game is a six hour zombie apocalypse scenario. "Survivors" are armed with NERF guns, Zombies hit by NERF guns are stunned before they may continue on their way. When someone is "bitten" by a zombie, they no longer have access to their NERF gun, but head to a make-up station, and get turned into a zombie. I've really wanted to get along to one of these games, but just haven't had the chance. I've played in the venues where some of these events are held, even engaging in LARP events with 400 odd players, and given that I know the organisers and venues, I have a good idea of how these ty…

Game Chef Thoughts (Part 1)

Technology Alarm…Sunlight…Sketch…Dance
Sunlight, light and darkness… Technology, as a tool for facilitating science and revealing the unknown… Dance, as a form of ecstatic release… Alarm, as the drama of being made aware of something that was previously hidden… I’m seeing Gnosticism.
Then again, I see Gnosticism everywhere, so it’s hardly surprising that this is where my mind would go first.
My second idea was a generation ship where technology has all but failed as the inhabitants plunge away from one sun toward a new one. Alarms triggering as certain ship systems fail due to degradation, or other come back online as the ship’s solar sails accumulate enough radiation to recharge the ship’s cells.  
I’d think about trying to create the type of game I love to play, but over the last few years the types of games that have done well in Game Chef have often been unconventional, whether moody ritual pieces, angsty catharsis ridden mind-screws, or loose interpretive endeavours. The games …

Cleverman

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If you can...watch it.


I just finished the premiere episode. It'll be interesting to see where it heads. As inspiration for a prelude to Walkabout, it could be pitch perfect.

People to Meet and Stories to Tell

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In a "boffer" LARP, combat is resolved quickly and easily through the use of foam weaponry. Magic is often handled through spell packets (which are colour coded balls or birdseed filled bags, each of which have specific combat effects), elaborate rituals (which are typically the focus of entire game sessions), or special abilities granted to characters (such as the abilities to temporarily enchant someone with benefits, penalties, or the ability to issue commands to other characters). In a more politically oriented LARP, combat is usually frowned upon, and magic is typically limited to behind-the-scenes effects, where the story focuses on gathering enough people to conduct a ritual effect. 
The kinds of stories that work best in each type of LARP can be very different, they typically function most effectively when they work with the strengths of the play style, or when they fill gaps where the fundamental mechanisms of play might otherwise leave things a bit flat. These two…