Showing posts from November, 2016

A Comprehensive Look at The Tower

Over the last week or so, I've been drawing a series of maps depicting an arcology city in the vein of "Peachtrees" from Dredd. It started as an idea for the Mage stuff I've been working on, a self contained setting for a more cyberpunk take on the genre, but over the last week it took on a life of it's own. The project began with a series of floor plans for various layers. There were no specific plans for what might exist where in the complex. Instead they were just interesting shapes with elevator shafts designed to line up, and where the various layers started larger on the lower floors and gradually became smaller as the altitude rose. Of course, this means my building has a fundamentally different shape to Peach Trees, where mine is more pyramid and Peachtrees is more like a prism. I ran some numbers through my building, where the lower layers would have an average of 6 people in each walled off apartment area, while the apartments at the highe

To mash or not to mash

There's a common practice in design circles where designers (and I hesitate to use the term "designer" in some cases, because this practice sometimes feels lazy and derivative) get two existing games, picking and choosing elements from each to create an unholy hybrid. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. So many of those hybrids recently have been PbtA products (which seem to be the current face of Story Games), or D&D products (which are basically the face of the OSR). I've seen the abysmal horror of a Storyteller system/PbtA hybrid, and don't want to walk any variant of that path. I similarly don't think that a "Mage:the Ascension / Dungeon and Dragons" hybrid will work. Still, there is the adage that sometimes you don't need to reinvent the wheel. It's just a case of picking the right games to mash together, and maintain the elements from each that give the right direction to the final project. I discussed this in a pr

Collaboration in Definition

In response to my " Say No and Roll the Damn Dice " post,  +Tony Demetriou  posed an idea by which players might define elements of the story's antagonists. The idea was specifically posed in the context of D&D monsters, but there's no reason why it couldn't be used in a Mage context, especially if that context was a more stripped back version of the game. Before we can follow that path, it might be necessary to work out how the game is being stripped back. In an earlier incarnation of the project, I was looking at the idea of maintaining the existing character sheets and stats inherent in Mage and trying to work a simpler system through them. This could be feasible, but I haven't worked out a clean way to do it. I'm thinking it might be easier to strip things back to an approximation of the Minds Eye Theater rules. Instead of nine attributes in three categories (Physical = Strength, Dexterity, Stamina, Social = Charisma, Manipulation, Appearan

They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!

< SPOILER ALERT...there are things in this post relating to the movie Dr. Strange. If you've read the comic or know about the character, these won't be much of a surprise... In fact, if you've noticed the pattern of superhero movies in the last 20 years, they probably won't come as much of a surprise either. I'm just letting you know...> In Mage: the Ascension, there are a four wider factional groupings. These groups sits at the corners and at the centre of a triangle. On one point of the triangle you have the agents of stasis, the "Technocracy", who basically want order in the world and want magic destroyed (they don't believe what they do is magic, even though other groups do see it that way). On another points of the triangle you have the agents of chaos, the "Marauders", who are basically insane with incredible willpower and a faith in their delusions so strong that those delusions leak over in our reality with their insanity. T

Say No, and Roll the Damn Dice

In a private post on G+,  +Jesse Burneko  made a point that relates tangentially to something that has been festering in my head for a few days. In my recent post entitled " Another Perspective ", I indicated that I thought something was really missing from the perspective provided in the accompanying video, and I feel that Jesse's words provide another part to the puzzle. The idea is that there was a seizmic shift in independent gaming, where a lot of designers deliberately added improvisational stuff into their games through the mantra of "Say Yes, or roll the dice". This deviated into the concepts of "Yes, and... / Yes, but..." where anything that is said in a game basically becomes an irrefutable fact, but it can be augmented or diminished through further explanation that comes later. The whole idea here is to produce an environment where everyone feels they are contributing to the unfolding narrative in a meaningful way, rather than simply havin

The Story Inherent in the Story Game

When I think of a story game, I tend to think of a game that produces a specific type of story. It may be a war story, from the perspective of children forced to confront horrors that they reall shouldn’t be emotionally able to handle (Grey Ranks), it could be a ritualised fantasy (Polaris), a tale of confronting one’s identity as a servant to a monster (literally or figuratively) (My Life with Master), a teen metaphysical angst drama thinly veiled by supernatural stereotypes (Monsterhearts). Each type of story game weaves a specific type of narrative consistently. Usually I prefer to mix things up in my campaign games, so I’ve found most games of this nature don’t hold my attention for long… “we’ve already told variations of that story a half dozen times, can’t we do something else now?” The kinds of stories I’d be interested in revisiting time and again don’t necessarily work well with this type of game…actually, in all honesty, there might be some awesome games out there that f

Half a million views

wow...just looked at the numbers, and at the current rate, some time in the next day or so I'll have reached half a million page views for this blog.

Deciding on a system

One of the things that bugs me about the storyteller system is one of the same things that bugs me in a lot of games. This bugbear is an inconsistency in the systems of play. Arguably it’s one of the core things that puts me off Apocalypse World games. I don’t like the idea that every subtle variation of an action has a subtle variation of a rule that goes with it. Custom moves are designs by exception, in a lot of cases they are specifically designed no to cover a range of narrative options, but to serve a single narrow purpose. If I wanted that, I’d play Pathfinder with its hundreds of pages of optional rules and errata. Sorry not my type of story game. Coming back to Mage, I’ve been having issue with the idea of 2 subtly different rolling systems in the game. One rolling system combines two statistics with a value from 1-5 or 0-5, while the other uses a statistic scale from 1-10. The first of these systems is commonly “Attribute+Ability” used in most task actions, the

Another perspective

So, I bookmarked this video to watch, and just sat through it. I'm not going to say that I disagree completely, because I can see some of the points that he is trying to get at...but it's like listening to a fish tell me how to climb trees. Twenty years ago I might have considered a lot of these points revolutionary (and the fact that the games used as examples are all more than twenty years old reflectsthis to some degree), but so much theory has been generated and so many new systems have developed since the mid-90s that a lot of these points seem obsolete. Changing die rolling mechanisms or existing on a spectrum between simplistic and byzantine are just methods of manipulating a single part of the game. If I was to go back to my own Vector Theory thoughts, these changes manipulate the way nodes are addressed in the story, but there is far more to gaming than those mechanisms. The example of shifting a flat progression to a bell curve really does nothing but manipul


One of the things I really like about the Storyteller system is the way a character's backgrounds integrate them into the setting. It doesn't matter what the background is, it serves a mechanical advantage and it can be used as a narrative hook for ongoing story. One of the things I don't like about the backgrounds in the Storyteller system is the way there is no real consistency in the way they manipulate the mechanisms of play. Some backgrounds reduce difficulties, other backgrounds provide additional dice, some reduce experience costs over the course of play, and then there are those which provide more powerful abilities to completely circumvent certain types of situation. To streamline and simplify Mage, I think backgrounds are one of the key elements to play with. Perhaps by developing of single background system with a consistent mechanism, but where each background is limited in it's sphere of influence, and each use of a background is a tug on a string which

How Mage went halfway, but didn't quite finish.

At the time of it's release, the Storyteller system had some great ideas. Some really pushed the potential of roleplaying, some were just codified instructions for what a lot of us did around the table anyway, and some opened the door for later innovations. The idea of multiple degrees of success was always an interesting one; coupled with the concept of the "botch", it gave a fun progression of linear outcomes to a task resolution. When I was developing my Vector Theory of roleplaying back in 2010, I said that the story parts of an RPG session were generally straight lines (vectors), while the game elements were "node" points where the narrative might change speed or direction. In a traditional railroaded game, these nodes might act as traffic lights, stopping and starting the flow of the narrative depending on whether the characters failed or succeeded. In some of the more interesting traditional games, there might be switch points along the railroad, where

What is a story game?

That’s a massive question, and in recent years there have been several responses to it. Among others, here’s a few that I’ve seen regularly pop up. A story game is a communal activity, where a number of players contribute to a single narrative that has not been defined at the start of play. A story game is a narrow set of rules designed to consistently facilitate the telling specific types of stories. The genre of story games encompasses all roleplaying games, parlour games, and any pastime where a narrative is constructed. It's a bunch of people writing sad things on index cards A story game is a set of rules designed for optimal protagonism among its active characters. A story game is specifically designed as a three way dialogue (should that be trialogue) between the GM, the players and the rules. It must be open enough for all members to understand how play is unfolding (as opposed to “traditional” gaming where the GM is expected to conceal things behind a

Pocketmod Mage

I wonder if I could condense a storified version of Mage: the Ascension into a few pocketmod booklets. One each for... Character Generation Core Rules Magick Combat Then I could basically swap out the Character Generation and Magick rules, to make rule sets for the other World of Darkness lines. Maybe generate an equivalent of a play book, to cover different types of mystical practice, or different traditions, to speed up the generation process with a bunch of data prewritten for a player about to start their mystical journey. That might make an interesting NaGa DeMon project.

NaGaDeMon 2016

Is it that time of year already?