Showing posts from July, 2015

Sword and Backpack

This. Just this. That is all.

Props and Weapons

Looks like I've formally been accepted to give a workshop on prop and weapon creation for LARP and cosplay, focusing on the materials and techniques common to both and the inherent difference between them (LARP stuff needing to be soft, but sturdy so that it can take a beating but avoid hurting people when they are used... Cosplay stuff needing to look good and more finely detailed, but just as sturdy so it can handle photographic shoots). Time to start building some props. I've got about a month and a half.

The Boffer LARP Heartbreaker

The terms "Heartbreaker" and "Fantasy Heartbreaker" have almost become running jokes in many design circles. Like "What is Roleplaying?" and recently "What is a Game ?" The idea of a heartbreaker seems to have broken beyond it's original concept to envelop a nebulous field of game design where a lone individual (it's stereotypically an individual, but might be a small group) work to improve on their traditional game, and then they try to tell the world how wonderful and original it is. In the stereotypical narrative of the heartbreaker, the lone individual knows everything about the game they are trying to improve, and they've probably been at it for years. They haven't really come up for air in this time, and they haven't seen the wide range of other products on the market that might already be doing the very things they are trying to achieve. If they have seen these other products, they might think that thse products are &

City Geomorph Step by Step (Part 2)

As we start this post, I've got the basic layout for the geomorph pencilled in. I'll remove the template from behind the hex, so that we can get a bit of a clearer image. Here, I've got streets and coastlines marked in for the small harbour, and a couple of vague ship shapes.  Next, I'm one of those terrible people who starts inking things before the pencilling is complete. I've got a pretty good idea of where I'm heading and how to get there, but I like the chance of screwing up a bit to make the workflow a bit more prganic and unexpected.  I have a range of felt-tipped pens in varying thicknesses (0.1, 0.3, 0.5, and 0.7mm). I like to work with the idea that a thicker line means a more dramatic shift between the mapped terrain on either side of it.  0.1mm lines reflect things that can be easily traversed (moving from concrete path to road, or rocky terrain to sand). 0.3mm lines reflect more significant changes that present a minor obstacle (fenc

Urban Geomorph Template

I've drawn up an improved Urban Geomorph template. The way I'm using it, it's a large image. It's designed to be used as an A3 sheet (420mm x 297mm) to produce a hex that is 300mm across the points. But if you're interested in using it, there's no reason why you couldn't scale it down to A5, to produce hexes that are 150mm across the points (or whatever other size you wanted). Here's the link.   Feel free to use it, but please tell me if you do, I'd like to see what is done with it.

City Geomorph Step by Step (Part 1)

I'll work through a geomorph example. I've got a basic idea of a small industrial dock, a big dock might sprawl across two or three hexes,but this might be suitable for a few small container ships.  The contrast on these early images has been turned up, so that you can more clearly see the geomorph template through the page. The total size of the hex I'm using is 30cm across opposite points.  First, I lay a blank sheet over the template, and mark in the corner points so there are good anchor points for this page if it accidentally slides off the template underneath.  I haven't always drawn the hex, but I've decided it might be a good idea to do it regularly from now on. Next I start drawing in some of the streets.  In this case I'm just drawing streets on the bottom edge and the lower left. All of the other edges of this hex will be aquatic, so I don't have to draw streets there. I'll be adding more streets in and con

Making the City Geomorphs

To ensure my city geomorphs line up correctly, here's the template I use. You'll note that the middle road can either be used in street configuration or motorway configuration, and also note that there are very few geomorphs (with the notable exceptions being the "Old Town" and the "CBD") where roads specifically follow one or more of these 'street lines' directly across the hex. The second step is to place a piece of paper over this and mark the corners of the hex, then maybe draw up the hex, and mark where streets will need to cross the borders. Then, what's inside is fair game. It's only the edges that need to line up with matching streets. In a few cases, I've drawn streets that form dead ends as they cross into a new hex. Where possible I've limited these dead ends to the street two in from the corner (moving counter-clockwise around from each corner, or four streets in from a corner if you're going clockw

City Geomorphs (Part 5)

We've reached that part whe most of the photographed work-in-progress images are pencil sketches, and probably don't show up too well on a screen. These are the last of the geomorphs I found in my pile of paperwork, so they are being posted for the purposes of completeness. This second "Edge of Town" is a general suburban sprawl. They call it a sleeper suburb, because most people spends their nights here in relative safety and quiet away from the rest of the city, while they spend their mornings communting to factories, skyscrapers and other workplaces in other parts of town. This is the home of the dwindling middle class, the lower level managers, the well paid tradesmen, the small business owners. It's a very vanilla part of town, nothing particularly good, and nothing particularly bad. It's just quiet... But underneath the quiet, who knows? The "CBD" is the commercial hub of the city, unlike the capital where the laws of the l

City Geomorphs (Part 4)

The "rural edge of town" sees a distinct lack of apartment buildings, and the detached houses exist on building blocks that grow larger the further you move away from the confines of the city. The city becomes more green here, with open plains, trees, and eventually scattered farmland. The people here are wealthy, those on larger properties own horses and other livestock; yet they still live close enough to other city facilities that they can keep their finger on the pulse of commerce and industry. Many of the citizens here have houses further in the country as weekenders and holiday homes, if they aren't a part of the 1%, these citizens aren't far off it.  The "capital" is inspired loosely by Canberra. It seems like all motorways lead to the "Capital", they radiate out like spokes from a central hub. At the centre lie the grand buildings of central government, where every approach seems to provide a picturesque and grandiose image of

City Geomorphs (Part 3)

Here's a few more detail shots of the modern city geomorphs. I might do one more post after these three before working through the design process over a couple of posts. The "signature industrial complex" is a massive factory, with accompanying warehouses and office buildings, owned by a global mega-corporation. The city was proud to get the company to have a base of operations here and it's been great for the local economy... Who knows, maybe the global corporation started here. A sweep in the motorway leads people toward the gleaming office buildings that control the complex before diverting them in other directions so they can't get too close a look...and certainly can't see the massive industrial workings on the other side of the steel and glass (except to acknowledge it's presence). Numerous houses and apartments cluster around the complex, feeding it regularly with workers. A dual carriage motorway travels across gently rolling pic

City Geomorphs (Part 2)

Here's a closer look at some of the work-in-progress geomorphs. "Old Town" is the central and most established area of a city, it dates back to the 1800s or early 1900s when it was fashionable among town planners to lay things out on straight lines, north to south, east to west, regardless of the actual undulation of the terrain. There's an old cathedral in the middle of Old Town, which might once have been the centre of a thriving community, but now lies dwarfed by larger buildings that have also fallen into decay while the vibrancy of the city has moved to outer regions and suburbs. Between the decrepit buildings are dank and crime ridden alleyways, few people come to this part of the city anymore, except the occasional tourist who wants to get a feel for the way things used to be (they usually leave disappointed). Most people catch the motorway and drive past this "Light Industrial Area" without giving it a second thought. They see warehou

City Geomorphs

While digging through some paperwork for the new iteration of FUBAR, I found a pile of paperwork containing some modern urban geomorphs. There are about 20 of these in various states of completion. It's another one of those projects on the current theme of modern urban storytelling, the kind of project that could easily link into my new version of FUBAR, or Other Strangeness... Or maybe could be released as it's own thing. Generally, these are two-phase geomorphs, with one side variant containing five equally spaced roads/streets linking across to the next geomorph, and another side variant containing four streets/roads and a split motorway. A few geomorphs (though not as many) contain blank edges that might be farmland or rural territory on the outskirts of a city, and a few contain water edges to help depict coastal cities. If there's interest, I'll finish off this project and release it.

Work on the Physical Book Begins

Here's the working logo I'm going with for the new iteration of FUBAR. It might not stay this way in the final product. In fact, it probably won't stay this way for the final product, because a hard copy of the book might be the first encounter that some people have with the FUBAR system. It generally does work as a working title because this is my attempt to revive the game and make it relevant to a wider audience, but I might just run with a straight "FUBAR" title for the book. I've generally given the book a structure, and now it sits at 80 pages, with a rough dozen pages of setting, lots more hints about how to run a game using the system, plenty of space for play examples, and lots of imagery. Now to start filling in the details.

A Quick Question?

In a fairly generic system designed to tell a specific type of story in a variety of settings, do you like to see a default setting for the system? Or, would you prefer to leave things completely open so players don't have a preconceived notion when they begin the worldbuilding process? (I realise I've influenced the answer through my wording of the question, but this is the third time I've written it and the most neutral version I could think of).   

Logo for the Darkhive

Just toying with some new imagery for the Darkhive setting that has been bubbling away in the back of my mind for the last couple of months. I'll probably be turning this second picture into a painting, I might even do another live paint session as I turn this mock up into a suitable cover image. If it doesn't work out as a good cover image it might still be good enough to use as an internal illustration.

On Magic in FUBAR (Part 5)

One of the things I love about the latest incarnation of Mage (M20, the 20th anniversary edition) is a more clarified interpretation of paradigms. These are the thought patterns that underlie the beliefs of a Mage, they describe an interpretation of magic and a understanding of what it can and can't do. This sort of thing is easy to accommodate within the existing rules of FUBAR, simply by applying this concept to relationships, and going back to an old idea I was toying with. This idea stated that relationships had a positive side and a negative side. For example, if you had a relationship defined as a friendship to someone, then attempts to heal them or assist them came with bonus successes equal to the relationship level while attempts to harm them or create obstacles against them came with penalties equal to the same level. Conversely, if you had a relationship defined as an enmity to that person, these situations would be reversed (it would be harder to bring yourself to

FUBAR Fever Now Online

I've thrown together all of the play sheets and information I used for last weekend's FUBAR session into a zip file and made it available for sale over on DrivethruRPG/RPGNow. FUBAR Fever Unless I manage to do something thatI'm really happy with for this FUBAR Magic(k) system that I'm working on, this will probably be one of last supplements before I launch a formal Kickstarter/Indiegogo project to produce a hardcopy of the rule book.

On Magic in FUBAR (Part 4)

Those who followed the development of FUBAR will know that it evolved from a few sources. One of these sources was  +Vincent Baker 's theory of boxes dice and clouds, where the story feeds into the mechanisms and the mechanisms feed into the story, both contributing to a feedback loops that favours certain styles, depending on the specific nature of the individual elements. Another source was  +John Harper 's Ghost Echo , and the sheer minimalism of that game is something I've continually tried not to wander too far from. Other sources include my own ' Vector Theory ', the work of the artistic Dadaists , and the ludicrous events that seem to always unfold in action movies, revenge movies and cyberpunk narratives, events that never seem to get fully resolved but we often don't care because we're engaged at such a visceral level. I could run magic through the system without needing to make any real changes at all. It could fundamentally work like any oth

...and now for something completely different

The illustrious  +Paul Czege  has developed a new type of game design challenge. It evolved out of a few conversations regarding the lack of advanced game design challenges. Game Chef is a great entry level contest, anyone can participate, they just need to consider the four ingredients (incorporating at least two of them into their design), and the year's theme. A few other contests have come and gone, but there really hasn't been something more challenging in a while. To address this imbalance, the #Threeforged RPG Design Challenge has been formulated. This is a fascinating concept where a designer throws together a basic game, which is added to a communal pool. From the pool, each designer is assigned someone else's game to expand and clarify before returning it the pool for a final phase. In the final phase, another round of expansion and clarification occurs, and hopefully a well rounded game is developed. None of the designers know who will be working on their game

On Magic in FUBAR (Part 3)

FUBAR flows fast. I've typically found that once players get used to the system, it only takes seconds to work out how many dice to roll, allocated them between the three categories, then continue on the way with the story's new direction (which may have been accelerated, slowed down, or diverted in course due to the roll). I don't want magick to mechanically slow things down, but many of the system scenarios going through my head have done just that. Since I'm working with the idea of rotes and freeform magick, separate to coincidental effects and vulgar, we've got 4 possible options. That gives us 4 basic options... Coincidental Rotes - These are the easiest and most subtle types of magick for a mage to shape reality with, they are also typically the ones that will disrupt play the least.  Coincidental Freeform Effects - These types of magick are subtle, but may make things go in unexpected directions because they simply can't be accounted for at th

On Magic in FUBAR (part 2)

FUBAR is simple, really simple. Adding too much complexity to it is a distraction, but I like my magic to feel different to the mundane events of the world. In Mage: the Ascension, we have coincidental magick which functions subtly, and Vulgar magick which is blatant "rip-apart-your-perceptions-of-what-is-and-what-should-never-be" stuff. We also have 5 distinct levels of power in each of the 9 spheres of mystic influence. These are the two things that really make the Magick work in the game and the setting. Each level of power is slightly more removed from reality, and you need a level of raw mystic insight (Arete) before you can access them. I'm thinking of bundling up a lot of this stuff. With that in mind, my first direction takes us toward an idea that invoking a level of magick automatically applies and equal number of positive and negative traits to an action. Level 2 magick, gain two positive traits, gain two negative traits... Level 5 magick, gain 5

On Magic in FUBAR (part 1)

FUBAR works simply, you roll a minimum of three dice, you allocate the results of the best three to different categories... Success determines how well you've done. Sacrifice determines what you give up in the process Story determines who narrates what happens High Plains FUBAR adds an automatic fourth die and a Speed category to determine who goes first when such things are important. Dead and FUBAR'd introduces the idea of relationships, which provide instant benefits when someone bears a relationship that is significant to the action they are taking. It also brought in undead, and powers fueled by a dark hunger. Walkabout changes a few fundamental mechanisms, but is generally the same game. It allows characters to engrave their skins with tattoos and scarification a limited number of times. Each of these symbolic skin markings is an act of honour to a spirit or an outward sign of belief and affinity to a concept. When a character performs an action aligned to tha

Game Chef English Language Winner Announced

It's almost done... The English language winner was announced. A well deserved win for Good Night Fairy Theatre. Congratulations Emily Griggs. A well produced package, and a clever game. It may not have scored the best according to the criteria I chose, but I can certainly see why it won overall.

A Reflection from Another Game Chef Finalist

I just read this interesting response to Game Chef. I can't help but think that certain things have been aimed at me. Quality is Subjective My response: I agree 100%. My marking rubric is purely my own. I don't claim to know what is innovative (but I've had a go at a vast number of games over the years), I can only say what looks new to me. I don't claim to love all games, and reading through my reviews you'll note that certain types of games have probably had a tendency to score higher (or lower) than others. I expect debate, I encourage it, I probably didn't get as much of it as I had hoped in my wade through the field. I'm saying what I like to see, and I'm not a formal judge of the contest. Next year I'd love to see someone else take on the challenge of writing as many reviews as possible, that way we can compare notes. In the spirit of openness and sharing, I posted links to every game that I reviewed, so that people could have a look

Operation: Coincidental Magick.

Reflecting back on things, it worked. The aim was to inject the premise of a coincidental freeform magick system constrained by an individual's beliefs and their understanding of the world. In a two hour session, I didn't think I'd have time to explain how magic might work, or what it might be capable of, so I just threw some subtle hints into the background elements of the game...some of which individually looked like blatant hints toward something else entirely. Given that is was a pseudo-late 1970s setting, the random characters chosen for the session included two hitmen (one brawler, one shooter), a phone phreak (with a jury rigged laptop, in an age when laptops shouldn't exist), a doctor (with a peyote addiction), and a supersitious petty thief (with lucky lockpicks). On top of the random characters, I tried to set a fairly mundane but dark and gritty setting for the story...Then I repeated several times that this game was more "cinematic" than real

Ettin Con

So, I've just returned from the inaugural EttinCon. This convention was basically what I imagine a lot of those independent conventions in the US, like the GoPlay ones, are like... or at least how they started. Groups of friends gathering in a venue to play one another's games, and the new stuff from around the world. (Photo by +Jez Gordon , I hope he doesn't mind) My table is the one in the back corner near the organ. FUBAR has reached a new audience of players and has piqued interest in others who either heard what happened or saw the game in progress. I think we've reached a good balance point with traits and how they interact with the system. The game was quick to pick up by players who had never seen it before, the relationships worked as traits that prompt action as well. (This photo mine, focused on three of the players from my session) I also got the opportunity to playtest another round of "Bug Hunt", with a couple of very intere

New Version of FUBAR

Over the years I've thought more about the way the core system of FUBAR works. It generally does what it's supposed to do, but there are a few things that have generally bugged me about the way the various systems interact with one another to produce an overall play experience. The FUBAR Director's cut was an attempt to clarify certain rules, and that pushed things in the right direction, but it still operated as a slow burn game...slowly, gradually accumulating the risks faced by the lowlifes...but maybe a little too slowly. The "Walkabout" incarnation of the rules pushed thing further, by applying positive and negative traits to characters immediately when they entered play. That seemed to improve the speed of the game, but a build up still took 4 hours or so and had a distinct possibility of stagnation. Stagnation runs contrary to high action, adrenaline filled chaos. This afternoon I'm about to run a 2 hour session at an invitational convention. I need

Fubar Fever

It's the dawn of the 1980s, between soft rock and disco dominating the commercial radio waves, there are the screaming howls of punk in the alleyways. The Cold War casts a sinister shadow across the world and computers are starting to invade the family home as Atari 2600 game consoles and 8-bit machines that get tuned into the UHF band on the family television. Concorde flies the world at twice the speed of sound, and there is talk of returning to the moon after an absence of manned offworld exploration. Now imagine that in the shadows, there are technologies of the modern world. In the hands of spies and technowizards, drawing on the future that may be (our reality) and the various futures that might  never come to pass (nuclear apocalypse, 2010 Space Odyssey, Skynet). Remnant eugenic programs enhance potential super soldiers under influence from self-exiled Nazis, state sanctioned Soviets, secretive American facilities, and numerous other nations.  I've wan

Remaining Finalist reviews

All of the remaining Game Chef finalists have hidden their games in zip files. Since only my iPad is accessing the internet that means accessing zip files is problematic and trying to download new apps  to access them is just as problematic with the internet issues in the area. Maybe I'll look at a few more games over the next few days until those issues get remedied. In the meantime,  +Steve Dee  has finished his round up of the finalists ( and can be found here )

Game Chef Review 55: Dreams of Dragonflies by D. X. Logan

Dreams of Dragonflies Ingredients: 8 [Dragonfly (4), Dream (4)] The use of dragonflies in this game is clearly evident, through the images of the insects, the world through which they fly and the name of the game. The dream is similarly in the title and integrated with the mechanisms since the game is about interpreting symbolism. It's a clever use of the ingredients and actually works better than a lot of the other games where I've seen these ingredients used. Theme: 7 [6 +1 Bonus for specifically addressing the different audience] This game has been specifically designed for a target audience that I haven't seen too many games address, and the design builds on this concept through versatility. It is capable of addressing a variety of "different audiences". Would I Play This?: 6 I like the ideas in this, but after all my work on geomorphs and map design over the last couple of years, there are a few things about the tile placement that I would have to ch

Game Chef Review 54: Stay, Still by Heather Silsbee

Stay, Still Ingredients: 9 [Stillness (4), Abandon (4), +1 Bonus for 'Dream'] Great and unexpected use of the elements 'Stillness' and 'Abandon', most of the other games that have used stillness have focused on deep space shutdowns or incidents, or have combined them with dream to create a hypersleep/stasis environment. Here the stillness is incorporated as a mechanical element where the group's leader/GM can pull someone into line if they become too dominant. The 'Abandon' element is one of the outcomes of the game. Dream is a loose application of the ingredient, but it's present. Theme: 3 This game fits into a specific niche of existing gaming, and I can't really see how it addresses a different audience. The claims of addressing an audience dissatisfied by existing media narratives doesn't particularly hold water for me, since most gamers like to tell their own stories to explore narratives in genres they know. Still, that gives

Other Game Chef Finalist Reviews

Steve Dee has been posting his own set of reviews on the finalists . It's always nice to see how different people view the same pieces of work. It's basically like the aesthetic notion of defining art, and the determination of what might be considered good art compared to what might simply be trying too hard. Once a game has been declared as good, it's easy to come along and make a judgement call on the art and in so doing, make a judgement call on the person who first made the declaration.  

Game Chef Review 53: Dragon, Fly by Paul Beakley

Dragon, Fly Ingredients: 8 [Abandon (4), Stillness (3), +1 Bonus for Dragonfly] Despite the name, dragonflies don't really play a part in this, but I can't particularly fault this when my interpretation of "stillness" was so unconventional. Theme: 8 While many of the games in this contest have focused on a specific audience, this game circumvents that by offering variants that can be played as multiplayer narrative, solo narrative, or solo procedural. While each of those game forms are existing niches of play style, that's a really clever way to address the theme and I wish I'd thought of it. Would I Play This?: 8 This seems like it could be a good game to play, in any of it's incarnations (single or multiplayer). I'd be interested in trying it in any of these configurations, I'd be interested in trying it in more than one of these incarnations to see how well it plays under different contexts. Completeness: 9 Pretty much everything is

Game Chef Review 52: Dragonfly Wings and Starship Engines by Steven Schwartz

I was just going to do "finalists" from this point onward, then maybe a few others that caught my eye,  but a polite note on the blog from Steven Schwartz (who has apparently been reading through these reviews) made me go and open up his files to see what he had produced for the contest. I'm glad I did. Dragonfly Wings and Starship Engines Ingredients: 8 [Stillness (3), Dragonfly (3), Dream (2)] The combination of Dreams and Stillness to form a cryosleep setting was certainly a common theme this year. I think I've reviewed a half dozen of these now. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, just that it's a thing. It's also interesting that in a lot of these entries, dragonflies appeared as either drones repairing the ship containing the dreamers in stasis, or existed as the shape of the ship itself. This follows that solid consistent setting, but deviates from other games after that point. Theme: 6 (4 +2 Bonus for showing how the audience is addressed i

Game Chef Review 51: Vovetas by Michelle Lyons-McFarland

Vovetas Ingredients: 7 [Stillness (4), Dragonfly (3)] Stillness plays a strong part in this game as a manifestation of the "Eye of the Storm". A safe and still zone that tribe members are sheltering in, trying to create what is necessary to survivewhen the storm passes back over them. Dragonfly is used a bit more vaguely; it appers in the game title, and in the flavour text setting the tone for the game, but is element feels like it doesn't completely mesh with the concept. But on the other hand, pushing it further might have compromised the game as it stands. Theme: 6 I've seen a few games like this over the years, not many, so it's a pretty exclusive niche (as far as I'm aware). It addresses a dofferent audience by alerting people to the plight of the Cheyenne tribes, but not in a heavy handed way. It remains light and generally abstract, rather than trying to ritualise a play experience. Would I Play This?: 7 This seems like it would be a fun game

Review Page Update

I've just updated my review page for Game Chef, adding in all of the new reviews, applying names to all of the reviews on the page, and making a note of which games ended up as finalists. It looks like most of the finalists weren't even looked at in my reviews. So I've got a few more to do if I want to make sure I review all of the finalists. From the final list... Dragon, Fly by Paul Beakley [EDIT: Reviewed] Dragonfly Brewing Company by Michael Wenman Dreams of Dragonflies by D.X.Logan  [EDIT: Reviewed] Far Away From Home by Aleksandra Samonek Good Night Fairy Theatre by Emily Griggs [Reviewed] ISP Dragonfly by Kevin Omans REDREAM by Ron Langton Sisters of the Hive by Jordan Saxby [Reviewed] Stay, Still by Heather Silsbee  [EDIT: Reviewed] Tea Ceremony by Niamh Schonherr [Reviewed] The Long Sleep by Bill Templeton Wings by David Rothfeder [Reviewed]