Showing posts from February, 2010

Vector Theory #7: Lenses, Mirrors and Quantum Burrowing

You've been playing a game for a while, it really doesn't matter whether you've been following the story, or whether the story has developed in response to your own actions. Events follow choices, choices follow events. The sequence has built up over the last few minutes...few hours...few sessions...few weeks. You seriously begin to consider whether the game has been preplanned by a GM following the storyteller model (vaguely allowing a level of illusionism to make you feel like your decisions really matter), or if the GM has simply been facilitating a story that has developed naturally. Sometimes the rulebook is pulled out, because people vaguely remember something about die rolls needing to be made in certain situations; they then flip through a couple of pages to make sure that their die rolls are actually valid within the context of the game being played. Sometimes another player on the table will make a judgment call on the part of their character. It's situatio

Games for Goblins

My apologies if you've been on Storygames, or The Forge, or any of the other places I frequent, and you've seen this one or more times before... I'm just trying to get some decent coverage to maximise the chances that some designers I respect might participate. I've been inspired by a couple of things lately. 1. A storygames thread about games you'd like other people to design . 2. The gaming anthology "Norwegian Style" 3. Old style games compendiums . 4. Another storygames thread about artists looking for game designers . 5. The idea of how games and roleplaying might have developed in a very different paradigm to our current understanding. Combining these concepts, I'm thinking of developing a boxed set through "The Game Crafter". The box will contain 2 booklets. One purely an art book, the other an assortment of games inspired by that art. In addition the game box will provide everything needed to play the games on offer...a few

The Goblin Labyrinth and "Games for Goblins"

I've had an interest in the Sydney gaming phenomenon known as Raven's Nest. It seems that the concept is forgotten across most of the world, but it was a marvelously ingenious concept. A combination of miniatures and live action play, developed twenty years ago. A concept that has been left by the wayside as a quaint curiosity in the annals of Australian roleplaying, and a notion that is all but unheard of throughout the rest of the world. My homage to it can be found here . A page about it can be found here . The conversation I started on story games led to someone challenging me to create a goblin labyrinth game, using the ideas found in Raven's Nest. Perhaps as a bit of a homage to it, updating certain elements of the concept, and refining the play. It's something I've toyed with a couple of times, at least in a cursory manner; and it's something that a few of my recent game ideas could easily consolidate into. I've started drawing some pictures fo

Rules of Game Design

Every now and then something really catches my attention on Story Games... This is a post that really intrigued me. Here are Jordan Mechner's (of the original Prince of Persia and the Last Express fame) rules for story-based game design, from over 10 years ago. They are a little bit dated but altogether quite good for the purpose of video games. The story is what the player does, not what he watches. List the actions the player actually performs in the game and take a cold hard look at it. Does it sound like fun? (Resist the temptation to embellish. If a cinematic shows the player’s character sneak into a compound, clobber a guard and put on his uniform, the player’s action is “Watch cinematic.” Letting the player click to clobber the guard isn’t much better.) The only significant actions are those that affect the player’s ability to perform future actions. Everything else is bells and whistles. Design a clear and simple interface. The primary task of the interface is to present

Vector Theory #6: Pulling on the strings

No matter what sort of roleplaying games you play, there are choices involved. Do you fight, or do you negotiate? Do you compromise your principles, or do you fight for your honour? Every choice says something about a character (and whether we like it or not, every choice says something about the player of that character). But we need to know why those choices are important. If you fight, why do you fight? If you stick by your principles, what are those principles? Choices can be preloaded through a character backstory, or they can be revealed through the narrative. Like I said earlier, vector theory is fractal; it works on a number of layers. Consider the diagram for today's post. If you consider the grey wavy arrow to be the journey of a specific character, then the black arrows might represent the various forces pulling at their lives. One could be a desire to please a certain someone, one could be a duty to fulfill a certain obligation, another arrow could represent a d

Impending Gencon Oz 2010

I guess it's time to start thinking about the biggest con of the year in this part of the world. What can I reasonably commit to? What have I already committed to? How does this compare to past years? I'd love to get some more time playing this year, but I honestly can't see that happening. I'd love to really get in contact with the other independent game designers from around the country, and that's definitely an aim I hope to achieve. I'd love to get some better experience with other indie games from around the world beyond merely theory and discussion. I'd love to bring some innovation to the convention, but last year's attempt at that was only moderately successful (so I might have to tone it down a bit). Last year both Leah (my wife) and I offered some suggestions to see what ideas might be worth pursuing. I offered a live interpretation of Gregor Hutton's 3:16 (which met with some excited anticipation), and Leah offered a Serenity/Firefly

The Turku School

What is it about scandinavian gamers? I've been reading through the Manifesto of the Turku school , and the first thing that comes to mind is that we've been doing a lot of this stuff in Sydney since the late 1980s. Live gaming and immersion are such an intrinsic part of the Australian-style freeform that we just never bothered to formulise the proceedings. As far as we were concerned, it was all a part of the word free-form. Just like most Australian endeavours, we innovate, but no-one can be bothered ritualising the details or refining the patents. Aussie attitude, probably...sheer laziness, maybe. I've played games under The LARPers vow of Chastity , and have had really great times doing so. Often adding immensely to the theme of the session for other players. In fact I spent the L5R freeform at Gencon 2008, simply sitting in the corner painting pictures in character, not following agendas because I didn't have any, I simply painted and had other players approach

Vector Theory #5: Conflict and Task based resolution

Vector Theory is fractal. A story game consists of story paths and game nodes. A game node may consist of a single decision point (with a choice defined by the GM, the player or the mechanisms of the game), or it may consist of a cluster of decision points all interconnected with tiny paths of story fragments. "You do this" which leads to a decision point offering "choice A" or "choice B", bother of which have an immediate impact story and lead to a choice about the consequences. As an example, you roll to hit, the story then describes how you've hit, leading to a new node defining how much damage you've done, the story describes the damage in context, then the choice moves to the victim, who becomes the new agressor. They make a choice and push the story from their direction. The large node is a conflict between two people, the actual tasks of the situation are defined by the sub-stories and sub-nodes within it. I've basically come to th

Norwegian Style

Matthijs has sent me a copy of Norwegian Style (he said it would probably take a fortnight to arrive, but it only took a week or so...surprisingly good service from Lulu .) At first glance, I'm really struck by a couple of key ideas. 1. I really like the idea of a roleplaying anthology. It's a series of games all linked by the theme that they are Norwegian, even if this purely means that the games are written by Norwegian authors. I would love to see similar "anthology-style" books following other themes; "horror games", "swashbuckling games", "immersion games", "games using non-dice, non-card randomising tools". 2. The roleplaying poem. The idea of a quick roleplaying game with minimal preparation that plays out over a period of less than an hour, maybe even 15 minutes. I'm so tempted to insert a couple of these roleplaying poems into my new D&D game, just to see how well the concepts work among players who aren&#

Overlooked Innovation

Sometimes you just don't notice the interesting things happening around you. Sometimes you just take them for granted. I gave a personal reflection on a game called Raven's Nest , an unusual game incorporating aspects of miniatures and live action. I played it around 15 years ago, but a lot of the concepts it used seem relevant to the notions of story gaming and narrativist play. I thought the game was dead, but apparently it has started making a comeback. Maybe it was just ahead of it's time.