26 April, 2017

40k retrospective

I was reading through this article about early 40k, it's a really interesting read and intersects a few ideas I've had over the last few months.

A few points...

I generally agree with the idea that GW has never given a good reason why they got rid of Squats as a faction, but I suspect it was easier to rebrand the "Space Elves" as Eldar (and now "Aeldari" to conceal that origin even further), while the "Space Dwarves" would be too hard to dissociate from their Dwarven heritage.

I miss the bad puns in GW character names. I miss a lot of that old 80s attitude, but I've moaned about that here on the blog a few times.

There have been so many missed opportunities by Games Workshop in the desire to simply sell more minis...again something I've moaned about a few times.

I really miss that early idea of a techno-fantasy battleground. I'd totally love to do a mixed 40k/Fantasy battle. It's a shame the games keep diverging further and further apart.

25 April, 2017

An era has passed

One of the most influential people in my life, I will now never get the chance to meet.

The Author of Zen and the Art of MOtorcycle Maintenance has passed away.

One of my favourite RPGs of all time is Mage: the Ascension, and this game is heavily based on the two books written by Pirsig. ZatAoMM and Lila, both define elements of the game, the former providing a context for the magical attribute of Arete (representing both an inherent understanding and one-ness with the universe, akin to a level of divinity...but not quite, I can't make a glib single sentence description...just go and read the book already), the latter providing a deeper context for paradigms and ways of viewing the universe (again...just read the damn book).

I used to read these two books annually, but it's been a while since I did so. I must get around the reading them again. I've also got a book called "Zen and Now" in which another author and motorcyclist traced the journey taken by Pirsig in his seminal work, but doing so decades later.

I'm going to have to read all three books some time soon to mark the passage of one of the 20th centuries great philosophers.

20 April, 2017

First thoughts on the "200 words" entries.

Maybe it's easier and quicker to explain something if the existing audience has a common point of reference. I've talked about this a few times over the years. Shorthands and stereotypes instantly convey a wealth of information as a direct data packet between the communicator and the recipient of the message. Once those are out of the way, the real storytelling (or new data flow) can be started.

I base a lot of my games on that strategy. Characters are often made up from template fragments, where choosing the naturally fitting components leaves a player with a stereotype or caricature, while choosing disparate components gives a memorable and different character (but one with internal struggles that cause problems of their own). But that's playing within the rules.

Playing with the rules is something different. I consider hacks to be lazy game design, they basically shorthand something that players and GMs are already familiar with, then apply something quirky or novel and call it an innovation. People who are similarly lazy look at these games (which are awfully similar to what they're already playing...so they don't have to do a lot of reading or thinking for themselves) and see the quirkiness/novelty/innovation as something amazing. They crow about it on social media, and the "designer" is lauded with maximum praise for minimum effort.

200 words isn't a lot of room. To get a complex game happening in that space doesn't require shorthands, references to other games, or simple hacking another game wholesale...but it sure makes things easier.

There seem to be a few ideas that are appearing in a LOT of the games I've been looking at among this year's entries. Whether it's tapping the zeitgeist, using shorthands that have become common in recent years, or laziness on the part of designers... I haven't decided.

Some of the trends I've spotted:

  • Divide 7 points between two attributes. Everything in the game is about those two attributes. If you can't fit your action into one of those actions either: a) it doesn't work at all, b) it automatically happens, c) you need to talk it out and work it into tthe narrative, d) there's a 50-50 chance of success.
  • Divide more points (maybe 10) between three attributes, the rest pf the first point basically still applies.
  • Roll under attribute. Typically combined with one of the two options above.
  • Roll a pool of dice. Typically the number of dice rolled is determined as per the first two options above.
  • Do "Apocalypse World" stuff. Roll 2 dice. Shoehorn one of the four standard modifiers onto the roll. If you roll below a certain threshold, you fail pretty badly. If you roll above a cetain threshold, you generally succeed. If you fall between these, something interesting happens. 
  • 200 words set a scene... no rules... just go. 

19 April, 2017

Collaborative Worldbuilding

Here on the blog I've generated a couple of worlds in two distinct series of posts about world-building.

But I love the idea of creating something collaboratively, to generate something that no individual mind could have achieved on it's own. I've done collaborative worldbuilding a few times before, and have often found that you need to walk a careful tightrope to avoid generating something that "looks like it was designed by committee".

Lets see where it heads.  

18 April, 2017

200 Words (Part 2)

Looks like it's fine to post these 200 word games for feedback while the contest is going...so here's the second iteration of what I've been working on.

Old Scratch
There were thirteen of you at the start; each gaining a supernatural talent from a ritual exactly one decade ago.
Tonight, back at the crossroads, Old Scratch calls his due.

Thirteen “power coins” at centre of table.

Start 13 pages with sentence describing character before the ritual, then number 1-10 down the page (1/year)

Write these questions on index cards, each player also writes their own question on a card…
    Who was betrayed?
    What was sacrificed?
    Who died? (choose NPC; remove question if none left)

All players dealt a five-card hidden hand (standard deck). Each chooses a page (others are NPCs)

    Begin Year
    Randomly Deal Questions
    Everyone cuts deck, highest goes first.
        Current player claims coin (from centre or from another player), explains this event by answering their question (avoiding contradictions)
        Other players respond by playing a card from hand.
        If black cards outnumber red, claimed coin is kept.; otherwise coin returned.
        Played cards shuffled into deck, hands refilled.
    Next player
    If tenth year, end; otherwise, next year.

Total players’ coins and red cards at end (best poker hand breaks ties), highest chooses game’s survivor (not themselves). Old Scratch claims the rest.  

Not 100% happy with the end game, But I've still got 7 words to play with.

17 April, 2017

200 Word RPGs

It's that time of year...

I have to write roughly 30,000 words worth of university assignments...and 200 words worth of RPG.

If you're not sure what I'm talking about...visit this link.

I've completely one of the 3 uni assignment and a single 200 word RPG entry. Now it's just another 18,000 words worth of university assignments to go before Thursday.

I can't remember if I'm allowed to post the game design idea somewhere else before I enter it in the contest, otherwise I'd include it below.

14 April, 2017

No humans

After a few recnt projects, I'm falling more in love with the idea of settings where there are no humans. Instead, I'm thinking more of multicultural/multi-racial settings, where the default race isn't specifically defined as human, but is instead defined as a mongrel hybrid of the setting's original races. Then throwing in the twist that there are "mongrel/human" supremacist groups who claim to be the most powerful in the land, only because they are the most numerous...certainly not because they are the most pure.

I come to this again as I consider a fantasy version of The Law. But I need to make sure the base version is complete first...and I need to eliminate some university projects before I can go much further on that.

13 April, 2017

Further Flavours in the Mix

Further to yesterday's post, I couldn't add Blade Runner wholesale into the mix, because Blade Runner is essentially an empty world, where the remains of humanity exist in vast technological cities while the majority of humanity has already ascended to the stars. The concepts of policing in Blade Runner are also quite different to the authoritarian attitudes of policing in the Judge Dredd universe (and that remains the core concept around which other elements must fit).

But just because I can't mesh the two completely, it doesn't mean they are mutually exclusive, after all they both fit in the cyberpunk mould. I can certainly add elements of Blade Runner to the mix, Replicants might be a potential fit for the setting, along with robotic animals (because the natural animals are now rare due to planetary environmental degradation). Flying vehicles are common to both settings. I'm sure there are numerous other little bits and pieces that could be ported across.

Shadowrun...flat out "NO". Call me anthrocentric, but I don't want elves, dwarves, orcs, and fantasy tropes messing up my cyberpunk. SLA Industries could act as an indirect inspiration, since it is more alien in it's exoticness (but who knows what is happening to that intellectual property at the moment).  
I could also probably add the blueprint maps I was drawing towards the end of 2015.

These imply a distinct island setting, a free trade zone separate from the other nations of the planet, and incorporating a space port. It might be a specific setting for the game, with a slightly different flavour to the main project. At the moment I'm generally thinking of ways to incorporate unfinished projects of the past and make them worthwhile again.

I could also fill in elements of the game with various other images that I've shared at different times here on the blog (if only I could find the originals again).

 They exist, why not use them.

12 April, 2017

Other Inspirations

When I create projects I can never draw on a single inspiration. It's probably one of those reasons why I can't handle straight up fan fiction... I need to create something new, something interesting and a bit different.

So I'm thinking of adding elements of Max Headroom into the mix for "The Law". Maybe a few other cyberpunk elements... It's just a case of working out what works best for the vibe I'm aiming at. Throwing a few blatant call-outs into the mix, and a few easter eggs for those who know what they're looking for. But with Max Headroom as an 80s British take on a Amercian dystopia, it clearly has to be involved.

02 April, 2017

Cityscape Images

I think we're getting a good feel for the urban blight of The Law with these images, just a few more to go.

01 April, 2017

16-Bit Law

(Click image to zoom in)

Maybe I shouldn't bother with all the post work on these images.

Maybe instead, I should just stop the render 6.25% of the way through (at the end of the second of the four rendering passes). This leaves the images with the kind of blocky pixellated art that we saw in "high-end" computer games of the late 80s and early 90's.

The general imagery I've been aiming for in The Law has been inspired by punk 'zines, Pink Floyd's "The Wall" and the comic 2000 AD circa early 80's... but if I shifted that to circa 1990, it could turn into something very different.

(I just looked at my screen at roughly this point in the rendering process, and that's what crossed my mind)