30 June, 2018

Bring Your Own Miniatures

I've long had an idea for a basic miniatures game, aiming back to the origins of roleplaying games. This would be a game where each player controls a single miniature, and maybe a couple of their henchmen. They collaboratively, or even competitively, explore an underground environment that is revealed through the course of play.

I've been playing with some concept sketches along these lines today.






The aim will be to get the character and team generation rules onto a single sheet of paper, all the basic rules for session play onto a single side of a sheet, and all the rules for trading with the merchant and upgrading the character on the other side of the page. The character sheet will take half a page, with the remainder filled out using 4 henchmen stat blocks each basically taking up an eighth of a page (where most character will have at most 2-3 henchmen).

The basic idea behind the numbers derives from the Confrontation miniatures game, where damage rolls roll 2 dice. The lower of the two dice determines the location of the hit, while the higher of the two dice determines the damage. To add a bit of depth to the system I'm using a d10 rather than a d6, and I'm splitting up the left and right on both the the arms and the legs, where each segment of the body may have a different type of armour on it.

The general system of the game has players allocating values of 8,7,6,5,4, and 3 across the six elements. The six elements determine the most common base scores in the game, and then there are also derived scores which are determined using the lower value of two elements.

Races, cultures, and classes will have a range of elements which will have to be allocated high (6,7,8) or low (3,4,5), a few skills commonly associated with them (most skills cost 2 points from the available "water" elemental pool, but these associated skills would only cost 1), some races might have automatic skills too (where trolls might be "large", goblins might be "small", skeletons might be immune to piercing weapons, etc.). Culture and classes might get discounts on starting equipment packages.

There's still a lot of work to do on this one, but I hope o get it in a testable form before the next EttinCon.

Making Positive Change

It's one thing to say stuff needs to be changed... it's another to actually step up and offer assistance in that change. I'm not in the US, so I can't go to protests or anything like that, but as a white guy who wants to see some positive change in the world for all people, I feel that it is right to help out when and where I can.


So, I've donated a couple of products to Steve Trustrum's "Reuniting Families Charity Bundle"... currently sitting at over $600 worth of products, for $29.99

There's some good stuff in the bundle, and it's for a good cause, so go and check it out.

28 June, 2018

Keep up the good work

I've noticed over the last cpuple of days that I've been getting messages on Facebook and private shares on G+ about some really interesting games in development from various parts of the community. Old-style traditional games (I'm not going to say OSR, instead I'd be more inclined to say heartbreakers and retro-fusion stuff)... new style experimental stuff.

I don't know how much I can really say about specifics, but I just wanted to say that it's great to see innovation in so many of these designs and I'm excited to see where they go.


As a side note, I definitely want to get back to those "200-Word RPG" reviews, and now that most of my uni work has been completed, I should have time to actually do a few more of them. 

Notes from the Past

Sometimes I go through my piles of paperwork and find echoes of a current project in a previous incarnation. 

Today was one of those times. 

I've been toying with a "bring your own miniatures" game of underground exploration; trying to work out whether to make it a new version of my Voidstone Chronicles game. 

It probably won't go that way... but it keeps creeping that way.   






23 June, 2018

Factors of Inequality

So, thinking about the ideas of social justice in a game, trying to develop a meaningful mechanism that generally works from a sociological perspective yet fits in with the existing systems of play...

In _The Law_ there are three general types of dice. Attribute dice give the raw potential for characters to succeed, the Rank die is an overview of how competent a character is in general and much agency they have in the world, and situation dice are provided by any equipment or other circumstances that might be brought to bear on a task.

I think that the situation die is the most obvious moving part that can be adjusted for the purposes I need. I could have simply added advantages to die rolls, but I think we need something that is both more nuanced and more variable in it's application... sometimes social privilege is obvious, sometimes not so much.

This touches on a concept that I've been finding problematic. Is this sort of systemic privilege a purely social thing, or can it apply to physical and mental activities? I welcome any thoughts on this.

My first thoughts were to create a "privilege die" which was a subtype of the situation die. Since there are five levels to the step die progression (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12), it would make sense to have five degrees of privilege... extremely advantaged, advantaged, neutral, disadvantaged, extremely disadvantaged. Under this system, whenever social privilege plays a role in the situation, both sides add their privilege die into the pool. The problem here is the implication that privilege is a static thing. You've got it or you don't, it applies or it doesn't. This doesn't address the idea that in some situations racial privilege might obviously apply, in others gender might be more of a factor, and then their are different situations where socio-economic factors are the dominant method of defining who has the advantage.

It's pretty obvious that a wealthy, white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, Christian male has more advantage in most Western society situations... millennia of social structure have been built to ensure this. A poor, Hispanic, transgendered, lesbian, Pagan female (yes, I know I've tautologically doubled down on a few of those descriptors) would be so disadvantaged in most situations that they'd barely have a voice at all.

If we swap these two character's into an inner city alt-goth nightclub/rave situation, certain elements of the male's advantage become negated, and certain elements of the female's disadvantage are overcome. Any advantage or disadvantage associated with gender or sexual identity might be ignored, while being Christian might suddenly be seen as a disadvantage in this situation, while being pagan becomes advantageous. Situations are fluid, people's identities are fluid.

Consider a wider context of society. The voices of the wealthy, white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, Christian males dominate the discourse (because millennia of social structure have reinforced this pattern), to see the next most common voices in society, swap out a single element of those descriptors. I'll try to give a stereotype of each, and an example of someone who has "overcome the odds" in each case.

Poor, white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, (nominally) Christian males... the working class, even rednecks and "white trailer trash", we see someone like Eminem who has "overcome every disadvantage" while actually only being afflicted by one.

Wealthy, black/non-white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, Christian males... pretty much any non-white politician or businessman, the most obvious example here would be Barack Obama, who had pretty much every advantage except for his skin tone.

Wealthy, white, transgendered, heterosexual, (nominally) Christian males... here's where things start getting tricky with regard to sexual identity and gender, but we see examples such as the Wachowski siblings, or Caitlin Jenner in the public eye.  

Wealthy, white, cis-gendered, homosexual, (nominally) Christian males... the character in any TV show whose quirky feature is that they're gay, that Milo guy who was so prominent during Trump's presidential campaign, etc.

Wealthy, white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, non-Christian males... pretty much any spokesperson you see for Mormonism, Judaism, The Church of Satan, or any other religious group on the news.  

Wealthy, white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, Christian females... half of the cast on any reality TV show, if we go blonde haired, then that basically covers half of all news presenters too. 

Now I've often said "(nominally)" to go with Christian, because if a person can play down their religious views to gain advantage, it seems that they often do.

There are also numerous other forms of disadvantage and discrimination which I haven't even touched on here. Disadvantage due to weight or body shape, neuro-atypical disadvantage (covering the prejudice suffered by those with autism, aspergers, ADHD, etc.), cultural disadvantage (where simply speaking a different language, or with an accent, or dressing in a different way causes issues), or even the modes of privilege applied to having a college education (or not) depending on where you are or what social situation you're in.

I've generally come to the conclusion that having one element different makes you quirky, having two makes you "different" and less likely to be heard, having three or more starts placing you in the wider community of totally unheard voices. This basically reflects the sociological concept of intersectionalism, it's not a perfect fit, and I don't think it ever could be a perfect fit to everyone because everyone feels this levels of advantage and disadvantage differently.

There will probably be a few more posts on this, as I work out the best way to incorporate these thoughts into a coherent system... but it feels like it's heading in the direction I want.

21 June, 2018

Turning the Tables

I still have my love hate relationship with the OSR, so today's "controversy" doesn't surprise me.

My Facebook feed today has been scattered with people proudly proclaiming to have joined the club of gamers who've been blocked by Zak S. My G+ feed has been scattered with people saying "not all OSR", and providing rationales about how it's only a few bad eggs. 

Honestly, I don't know if his whole incident is related to the new podcast involving RPGPundit, and Venger Satanis... who are curiously a pair gamers who court controversy purely because it gets people talking about their nom-de-plumes... 

[STOP TO DO SOME RESEARCH]

[RESUME]

No, actually they look unrelated, there's just a whole heap of OSR related victimhood, and anti-progressive shit going down. It's curious that the OSR has a stance against progress in gaming (tending toward conservative, if not regressive, models of play), and these prominent figures in it have a stance against progress in society (tending toward conservative, if not regressive, attitudes toward women, LGBTQI+ communities, and other minorities). It's probably not surprising that conservative attitudes in one part of a person's life would be reflected in other parts of their life. 

Similarly, I note that those who are more open in their attitudes, and progressive in their values, tend to be more willing to play with experimental rule sets of games designed to push the envelope in some way. Like all sociological theories and proposals, the truth is far more complicated than that, and these ideas barely scratch the surface... but it generally fits the observations I've noted.

The recent outcries have basically said "I don't want politics in my gaming!", but what if we said "screw that! I want politics in my gaming. I want an escapist fantasy based on the real world with the politics of the real world, but I want the minorities to actually have a chance to break the system, empowered by their desire for change...and I want a game system that specifically facilitates those types of stories."

It's basically been one of those notions sitting in the back of my mind since I started updating Mage: the Ascension a few years ago. Certainly something that has been a part of the modern magic in the Familiar game. 

Earlier this week, I deliberately reached out to a number of gamers and game designers who have shown an interest in progressive political issues to see if they'd be interested in being out, or even just acting as a sounding board to make sure their ideas were represented. I sent messages to gamers of colour, feminist gamers, queer gamers, transgender gamers... trying to get a variety of perspectives represented...

...one person responded. She responded enthusiastically. I'm wondering if put out the same messages now if there might be a better response.

If you are interested in a project like that, let me know. 

19 June, 2018

The 800 pound Gorilla...and their slightly smaller friends

It's been a busy couple of days, and it doesn't look like slowing down any time soon.

On Saturday, we had Free RPG Day at Games Paradise. I ran a six player session of The Law, which went reasonably well, but I couldn't help but think of all the players the local designers weren't reaching for various reasons.

It wasn't necessarily the location. It was in a game store, the intended destination for gamers looking to experience RPGs, and probably even looking to experience new RPGs. But I think a part of the problem was the lack of profile for Free RPG Day at this time. Most people coming to the store, and to the play area didn't even seem to know about the promotional event. Most had come into our vicinity because we were near the D&D books.

Lets round things off to whole numbers... If there were 60 people who came to browse, maybe half of them only looked at D&D stuff, so we're looking at 30 flat out D&D players, 30 others.

Of those 30 others, half looked at D&D stuff but spread their interest to Pathfinder products as well.

Of the 15 interested in products other than big name d20 derivatives, most clung to the Shadowrun chunk of the store, or Call of Cthulhu.

So, when it came to the 4 games being offered, the Call of Cthulhu game was clearly the one which drew the most interested players, Savage Worlds next, then the locally produced independent games. But even though we were offering games there and then, it felt a bit like fighting over the scraps left behind by the big games... even though there was no physical presence of someone running one of those games.


More often than not, I heard people say something in the vein of "are you running D&D?" to which there would be some kind of response indicating that some locally produced games were on offer... which then led to disappointment. I was feeling like a takoyaki specialist chef at a Japanese restaurant where most people came to purchase sushi or occasionally sashimi, then would walk away with nothing when those two options weren't available.

It's a multi-part struggle.

How do we get new gamers into the hobby? How do we get them not to be stuck in the D&D quagmire to explore the other vistas on offer? OSR offers them something similar to, but not quite, D&D... plenty of other games try to draw the crowds from LARP, miniatures, or computer games with hybrid offerings and varying degrees of success. Then there those games that just try to cannibalize the existing market with their claims of superiority, but requirement of prior knowledge before they can be properly played. I try to create games that lure new people to the hobby, but how successful that is...I'm not sure.


14 June, 2018

Grids





Works in progress

12 June, 2018

Discount Link

This coming weekend, I've put a couple of discounts on some Vulpinoid Studios products over on RPGNow/DrivethruRPG. It's a part of the "Irregular Birthday Sale", where some years I remember to discount stuff, and some years I'm too busy and forget about it. It's also partly a response to Free RPG Day being held on the weekend of my birthday.

The first product being discounted this year is The Law, which will have it's PDF reduced to a dollar. 

Here's the link. (It will only be active on the weekend of June 16th-17th, 2018)

The second product to be reduced will be the Ghost City Raiders Starter Bundle. This pack of PDFs contains the core rules, ten character types and ten scenarios, with a total individual sale value of $22, it normally sells for $10, but for the weekend will also be marked down to a single dollar.

Here's the Ghost City Raiders link. (It will also only be active over this coming weekend)

In previous years when I've put forward promotions like these, less than half a dozen people have taken advantage of them, we'll see how it goes this year. 

10 June, 2018

200 Word Reviews (Part 3 - 41-60)

Because I'm running behind on these reviews, here's another batch for today. At an average of 5-10 minutes or so reading through each of these, then composing my thoughts and writing them up, it takes about 2 solid hours to write each batch of 20. When I've got other things to do around the house as well, that can extend to 4-5 hours, so I don't think I'll be able to write up more than one batch of 20 each day.  

Entrant
Name
Premise
Rules
Definition
Agenda
Coherence
Total
41
The Gulf Between Them – Star King West
1
1
0
3
3
8
42
Revenant – Adriano Bompani
1
1
2
1
1
6
43
My Brother’s Keeper – Chris Krueger
1
2
2
3
2
10
44
Sete – Drink in the Apocalypse – Leandro Lisboa
2
2
2
1
2
9
45
Chance Goodbyes – Michael Blatherwick
3
2
2
3
3
13
46
Spaghetti Pitch – Avital Lubin
3
2
0
3
3
11
47
Mongols and Manticores – Lucas Hald
3
2
2
2
2
11
48
Scenari’Odds’ Fast paced scenario solving rpg – John Bryant
1
2
1
2
2
8
49
Don’t Split Up – Eli Eaton
2
2
0
3
1
8
50
The Whole Potato, All At Once – Dylan Scott
1
2
0
0
0
3
51
An Incomplete Entity – Z Gosck
3
3
2
4
3
15
52
It Came From Studio 9 – Michael Klamerus
2
2
1
3
3
11
53
Warrant – wolfrug
2
3
0
3
2
10
54
One Night – Human and Monsters – Allinic Aflin
2
3
1
2
3
11
55
Multi-Headed Monster – Alchemeister
1
1
1
0
2
5
56
The Doppelganger Effect – Cรดme Martin
3
3
1
2
3
12
57
Story of the Boat People – Lorelei Nguyen
3
2
2
3
4
14
58
Mission Impawssible – Saffire Grant
3
2
0
2
2
9
59
The Cataclysm – B.J.Best
2
3
0
2
2
9
60
Trench – Jason Hughes
3
2
0
2
3
10

The Gulf Between Them
This is almost an “arty, angsty, catharsis freeform” game, but it just manages to avoid that fate.it follows the typical “two characters discuss their innermost feelings” schtick, but adds a third player between them who I capable of twisting the answers given between each other. That adds depth and a point of difference that so many games of this type are missing. Again, it’s a really narrow premise, and I can’t see a whole lot of replay value in it. But it seems interesting as a one-shot.   

Revenant
A multi-player “arty, angsty, catharsis freeform” game. What is it that I don’t like about these games? Probably mostly that they are exposition, they are the epitome of telling not showing, you don’t do anything. It’s all just reflection and lack of interaction with any outside force that might make a real difference to the narrative. This feels just like a hundred games in that genre that have come before…

My Brother’s Keeper
I’m in mixed opinion regarding this one. It feels like the kind of game I don’t like, it has a very railroaded narrative structure, it doesn’t really feel like it does anything innovative within that structure, but there is scope for play. It’s like a closed ended “arty, angsty, catharsis freeform” game. It’s also interesting that the author felt like there was a need to spend twice as many words justifying the game as were spent writing it.

Sete – Drink in the Apocalypse
This is an interesting anomaly, it seems to be competitive in some ways, but there are certain areas where a player with a high attribute cannot be beaten by a character with a low attribute. Since it has to be played in a pub, I’d have included a rule where each drink allows you to increase an attribute by 1. As it stands, it’s a basic (but seemingly flawed) system, it also seems to set a premise but doesn’t really seem to go anywhere. It feels really incomplete.   

Chance Goodbyes
It doesn’t take much to turn a “arty, angsty, catharsis freeform” game into something a bit more interesting. This game does that. A player walks to their doom, but there is a slim chance that they might walk back again. Over the course of 6 encounters (and 15 questions), they make their peace. These questions aren’t force fed, their randomly determined. I don’t know, there just feels like a nicer structure to this game than similar examples of the genre.

Spaghetti Pitch
Throwing spaghetti at a wall to see if it sticks. I like ideas that engage literal translations of things, and I like games that use unusual mechanisms, this certainly fits both those criteria. It fits the criterion of players taking on roles, it also fits the criterion of a game, it just uses both of those aspects in ways I wouldn’t have normally considered. A very narrow scope of play, but it executes things well.

Mongols and Manticores
The manticore player confronts a horde of mongols who want it dead. This is simulated by drawing and eating M&Ms. I don’t see how the Manticore can lose this one. Maybe there needs to be a limitation on the number of M&Ms eaten, or some kind of obstacle or fallout when certain colours are eaten. It feels like it’s almost there, but could do with a bit of playtesting or refinement to really be coherent. Unless of course it’s just an excuse to eat a bag of M&Ms.

Scenari’Odds’ Fast past scenario solving rpg
This one is a bit of a non-sequitur game. It doesn’t seem to particularly facilitate an ongoing narrative between interconnected scenes, but I guess the definitions of portraying a role, and playing a game don’t necessarily require this. Using a timer and rapidly speaking to earn points can be problematic, and I don’t see a way to resolve this, but generally it looks like it’s been thought about. Could do with some refinement.

Don’t Split Up
Arbitrarily, a group of players roll dice. Whoever rolls lowest in each round is eliminated, apply a story over that framework. I can see where it’s trying to go, but I’m not really sure it gets there.  

The Whole Potato, All At Once
I guess it’s a bit like a less pleasant version of ‘Spaghetti Pitch’ further up in this batch of reviews. You bite into a potato, and if you swallow it you succeed. If it’s the last bite, you succeed really well and level up…which has no real effect. It’s proposed as a universal system, which means no real premise, no agenda, no method of defining a character. Just sounds like an excuse to watch people eat raw potatoes.

An Incomplete Entity
I like this one. It feels like it would make a good session zero game, defining characters and the world through play. Nothing is known about the characters but they gradually add depth as they encounter situations. It follows a fairly standard attribute plus ability plus 1d10 system to resolve tasks, so it’s reasonably familiar to players who’ve tried a few different game engines. The only thing I think it would be lacking to create a complete game system would be some method for character advancement. As it stands, it seems to do what it promises pretty well.  

It Came From Studio 9
Another movie interpretation of PrimeTime Adventures (see “What’s my Motivation?” earlier). Players take on the roles of people behind the scenes, discussions are had, then a pair of dice are rolled. There’s no real connection between the whether the players agree that a scene is successful compared to whether or not the dice agree. A few scenes are used to determine whether the whole movie is successful, a bomb, or so bad that it becomes a cult classic. There’s some good ideas in it, but I think it needs a bit more work.   

Warrant
Ostensibly a game about bounty hunters claiming warrants, everyone basically gets three cards and matches their cards against the rest of a deck. If the players card is higher, they catch the bounty. The game is basically functional without any playing of roles, but I’m not sure how easy it would be to get those high ranked cards if the players had a bad start with their hands… and I similarly think that it’s a bit arbitrary that whoever gets the best hand at first will basically win the game.     

One Night – Human and Monsters
This one’s a bit of a minimalist social deduction game. Sort of… but it looks like the actual social deduction bits have been left out. Players define their characters, and a random one is a monster. Then the rolls from the GM eliminate character hit points, and eventually characters, but there are bits of this part that feel left out. Maybe I’ve just read too many games today, and I’m just missing something.  

Multi-Headed Monster
This is really a game of GM fiat, where everyone plays a single head of a multi headed monster, and has a randomly determined pool of energy points that they spend to overcome specific tasks. No die rolls, I think, it’s a bit confusing here. Maybe you get 3 dice to roll in any scene, then need to eat to reclaim dice.  There’s nothing about difficulty numbers or what die rolls mean. This one does need a lot more work.

The Doppelganger Effect
I was thinking ‘Orphan Black’, but it’s probably more Jet Li’s ‘The One’ using a system that’s similar to the infamous ‘Dread’ using the Jenga tower. I can see this really working for a chaotic narrative about phase shifting hijinx, I certainly can’ see it working for something too dark and serous, especially given the random tables that have been offered.

Story of the Boat People
Here’s another political one, especially political as an Australian where ‘boat people’ have been a political hot potato for the past decade and a half. This is another one of those bleak games, I wouldn’t quite go so far at to pigeon-hole it into my “arty, angsty, catharsis freeform” category, but it’s close. Player take turns telling stories of their homeland, the worst storyteller is cannibalised. After a round of storytelling a die is rolled, a when three 6s have been rolled, the boat reaches a promised land. But this basically means that a minimum of 3 players will be cannibalised, and probably everyone. No idea what happens when only one person is left. A few more words would probably go a long way here.  

Mission Impawssible
I’m just imagining this transposed to ferrets instead of chihuahuas. You basically need tokens to overcome obstacles, you get tokens by getting into trouble in one way or another. There are three predefined scene, but there’s nothing to say how many tokens are needed to get through these scenes so that means a hefty amount of GM fiat…except that it’s designated a “GMless story game”, I think there needs to be something here to focus play a bit more.  

The Cataclysm
Another game where high card wins, and the roles played don’t really matter, so it fits more into the storytelling parlour game genre. I like the idea of using a tarot deck to describe the story of a world changing event, but I’m noticing a lot of elimination games in this year’s entrants, and nothing about what players do once they’ve been eliminated from proceedings. There’s a lot of gaps in this one.

Trench
Angsty, dealing with emotional events, single player eliminated every turn… this is a mix of everything that I’m seeing again and again, but at least this time we’ve been given a description of what players do when they are eliminated. I can see how this sort of game might be appealing to a certain crowd of people, certainly as a one-off session at a convention, but I don’t think it would get much play here. It’s better written than some similar games, a hence hasn’t been give overly critical scores.