31 December, 2017

The Tutorials are Accumulating

I've got about 20 pages of these now...but more to come. Then I just need a decent working computer to scan and compile them into PDFs.

29 December, 2017

Making Good on a Promise

It's been two years since I've been promising to create new map-making tutorials. Now that I'm having computer issues again, and it's that quiet period between Christmas and New Years, it has felt like a good opportunity to start drawing.

Once I get a decent computer working again (rather than the tablet I'm writing on now, or the second backup laptop which sits beside me on the floor while my wife uses backup number one), then I'll be able to scan the images digitally.

27 December, 2017

Forward, Backward, Still?

In the last couple of weeks, I've watched two movies that have swept through popular culture with massively polarising effects. I'm not going to post specific spoilers about them, but what I write generally with regard to themes and concepts in them could be considered spoilers.

The two movies were...

The Last Jedi



In both cases, a subset of people I'm linked to have voiced specific dislike of the property. The two groups voicing their dislike have different reasons in each case, and mostly the groups are exclusive of one another. But in both cases, the movie is a bit different to things that have come before, and that seems to scare certain types of people or just annoy them.

A certain subset of fans didn't like the previous Star Wars movie "The Force Awakens", claiming that it was basically a rehash of everything we've seen before. They wanted something new... yet when "The Last Jedi" gave it to them, they didn't want that either. I knew there were controversies and complaints before I went in, but had tried to avoid details in order to avoid specific spoilers. Once inside the cinema, I pointed out to my wife certain points when the bridge crew of a Resistance ship seemed to be entirely female, I'm pretty sure the movie even passed the Bechdel test. There were lots of political allusions in the film, including people making money from war (we've seen the concept of interstellar corporations selling weapons to both Empire and Rebellion since the days of the original Star Wars RPG... I'm sure I remember reading about the X-wings being destined for the Empire, but they did't fit the hangars on star-destroyers...or something similar). There's also a fan theory going around where the Resistance is a matriarchy representing feminism, and the First Order is a patriarchy representing conservative society...such a theory offers the idea that the same trolls behind Gamergate have a hatred for The Last Jedi because they can't handle women as heroes ad men as villains. Credence is added to this theory when I see that the same kinds of people complaining about The Last Jedi are the ones who are rabidly against "Social Justice Warriors" and anyone who wants to disrupt the status quo.

Star Wars has always been political allegory, religious too. When the real world has forced people to confront their deeper ideologies, and they find those ideologies cast in a negative light, it's hardly surprising to see them lash out. It is a good time to see a message about breaking down the establishment, especially when the establishment currently seems focused on breaking down everyone around it.      

Bright on the other hand feels like it's getting a backlash from the other end of the political spectrum. It places Elves at the top end of society, where the real world sees the 1%ers, and places the Orcs below the Black and Hispanic communities. It allows discussion about the topics that are currently controversial dialogues in the US, by thinly veiled allegory. I'm not sure if some people are lashing out at the message, but other have been quite vocal that they didn't like the messengers (David Ayer and Max Landis, as the producers), or have been highly critical that the movie didn't address gender concerns. There are all sorts of conflicting complaints about it, but in every case where I could see one person satisfied with a specific change, I could similarly see that change making two other people more upset with it.

The strangest complaint I've seen is that it isn't Shadowrun... but it never claimed to be. If it was given the subtitle "A shadowrun movie", then I could see why people are complaining that there isn't any cyberware in the film. Bright is modern day allegory, urban fantasy. I never expected a cyberpunk/fantasy hybrid... hell we're only starting to get decent superhero movies now, the mainstream isn't ready for a Shadowrun movie yet... it would bomb.

I'm happy with the small steps taken.

For both of these movies, there is a element of laying the groundwork for something a bit different in the future. Pushing the envelope, even just a little is good...actually, I think an incremental push is better because it's easier to bring the mainstream along with it. People rebel when the change is too big, people complain when there's no obvious change at all. Minor changes allow discussion and thought to occur.

If we want to push things further, we can always watch the movie, then use that as a basis for a few RPG sessions to explore deeper concepts on our own.

05 December, 2017

Idea Necromancy

A while ago, I was working on an idea to run a computer driven game where characters were defined by a string of alphanumeric characters. It got a bit of interest, but I never really took it anywhere. 

Post 1
Post 2
Post 3
Post 4
Post 5

Actually, digging back through those posts, it's actually where I was thinking of heading.

I've been having a bit of trouble maintaining the motivation to regularly upkeep the LARP in recent months, so it might make things easier to automate the whole thing. To generate characters via a basic website, to track factions based on which characters belong to them, and to map the influence of those factions across the map of the LARP world.

04 December, 2017

Career Paths (Part 2)

It's been a couple of days since the last post.

I've been discussing a few ideas with various communities, including game design groups, the LARP community I'll be running with, a few wider LARP groups, and a local NERF group. It looks like a NERF driven LARP is enough of a novelty tnat people are intrigued. That means brand new players.

I also showed some of my existing players some minimalist rule sets, such as this one, and they were shocked at how such things could be called a formal set of rules.

So, once again we're aiming for a sweet spot of "not too heavy, not too light". Lots of people seem interested in the idea of a formal game economy, and a decent system of development for both characters and equipment. It feels like I'm on the right track.

Three is the magic number.

I'm looking at three general categories that define a character (race, culture, and occupation/career), and three levels of progression before mastering something.

The progression is always consistent. First an attribute (which opens access to specific career paths), then a skill (which allows usage of equipment, and also functions as a prerequisite for certain career paths), finally a special advantage that functions during games. Once a character has purchased all three, they might gain  automatic access to a more advanced or spdcialised path, where the progression cycle starts anew (attribute, skill, advantage).

Race is something characters start with, it can only be bought during character generation, and may not be improved later. Characters don't need to buy levels in 'Race', but if they don't, they're generally considered to be generic mixed breeds with no special powers. If they buy up to three levels, they manifest more of the appearance and traits associated with the race. Buying 4-6 levels of 'race' takes the genetic traits into specialised areas.

For example... the first 3 levels of the mutant race might start with a physical boost, then a choice from a Scavenger, Strength, or Psychic skill, then finally an advantage in the form of an extra Hit Point. This would open up access to specific paths of 'Animal Mutant', 'Degenerate Mutant', or 'Psionic Mutant', each with their own progression paths. 

Culture is similar, it can be bought at character generation fairly easily, but the basic levels can still be bought later. It's harder to pick up the nuances of a subculture, I haven't fully decided whether to ban players from picking up new culture levels after character generation, make it more expensive, or limit it in some other way.

After character generation, the most common thing players will improve in their characters is their occupation/career. Characters will be able to move from three levels of basic through three levels of a veteran career, and on to three levels of an expert career. Characters following this progression may simply work through it from start to finish...but characters may also jump into a career progression at veteran or expert level if they meet the relevant prerequisites (attributes, skills, possessed equipment, and/or fulfilled quests).

The three levels always applies, but a character may always go back once they've mastered a career to pick up the extra skills that could have been acquired while they were in the role.

This basically means we need a substantial number of skills.