Showing posts from March, 2018

April's Questions

I've barely skimmed the questions, but I like a good 30 questions in 30 days listing. And I'm going to need something to break up my concentration between the work on the Cookbook. So, I'll be doing this list from Kira Magrann over the course of April.

SNAFU Cookbook (Part 1) Ingredients (b)

The remainder of the ingredients for the cookbook. Narrative What kind of story is going to be told? You might say that you want a tale of social struggle, but that's where narrative crosses into demographics. Maybe you're thinking of a noir tale of intrigue, but that's crossing into mood. Instead, what is being discussed is the absolute basics. Is it an investigation or problem with a specific resolution or end goal? Is it a meandering and reactionary tale more like a soap opera that builds organically from the actions of the characters? Is it a journey with a specific beginning, a specific ending, and one or more paths between them? Is it one of the many stories that can be shoehorned into the structure of 'The Hero's Journey'? Basically, this is asking what the characters do, not necessarily how they feel when they do it, or whether they do it with a certain style. Are there any specific actions that might determine success or failure in the narrativ

SNAFU Cookbook (Part 1) Ingredients (a)

I'm going to work through the elements of the SNAFU Cookbook publicly, because I don't think I have all the answers, and I'd be interested to see other people's input on the project. Once the series of posts has reached it's conclusion, I'll revise my ideas in light of those suggestions, and compile the final cookbook from those revisions. If there's enough interest, I might even throw a few commissions out to people willing to write short pieces (200-500 words) that can be added to the book so that there are more voices than just my own within it. First a look at the ingredients. Note that these ingredients aren't discrete and separate things, they overlap, they exist in relation to one another. There are probably other ingredients to consider as well, and I'm certainly open to hearing ideas about additional concepts that contribute to a game. Oeuvre An oeuvre is a body of work, it typically has themes running through it or elements where on

SNAFU Cookbook

Cortex had its "Hacker's Guide", D&D had its System Reference Document (and a few other games have followed suit). As I put together the bits and pieces that make "The Law" what it is, and allow for those components to be rearranged into something new, I'm thinking of things more from the perspective of a cookbook.  The ingredients are the fundamental components of the game, in this case I'm looking at... What makes an oeuvre?  What are the demographics of the setting? How is narrative resolved? What is the mood? What are the core rules?  The recipe is how those ingredients interact with one another... How do the demographics of the setting reflect the oeuvre? How do the core rules support the narrative? (every pair of the base ingredients can be combined in some way that provides some insight into the game we are planning to run) Finally, the presentation... What leads up to a game? What should a game in progr


Yesterday's anecdotal post was intended to be more than just a trip down memory lane. There's actually quite a bit to unpack in it. A lot of good game theorising occurred in the early 2000s to give names and context to what we were doing, but at the time we were just following trial and error. The main reason I'm thinking about this is one of those many projects I've got that feeds on previous ideas and occasionally rears it's head demanding attention. I'll probably meander back and forth between a few developments where these ideas have manifested through my work over the years, but to keep things a bit more organised, I'll add a few discreet heading categories. Flat Comparisons vs Randomisers This is where I was heading with yesterday's post, before I cut things off. Standard Magic: the Gathering uses flat comparisons to determine conflicts. If a creature's power is at least equal to their opponent's toughness, they kill them. If it's


Back in the mid 1990s, we played a variant on Magic: the Gathering for a while. We didn't pay it for long because it wasn't 'proper' Magic, and most of the other people we tried to get involved in the games just couldn't handle it. The variant was simple. Every time a creature attacked or defended you rolled a d4, the power and toughness of the creature were boosted by the result. If a 1/1 creature rolled a 4, it might take down a 4/4 creature that rolled a 1... it might walk away unscathed from a conflict with a 3/3 creature who rolled a 1. There would only be a 1 in 16 chance of it occurring, but there was still the outside chance of a upset. Similarly, once a creature managed to score a hit on a player the player rolled a d4 to reflect a potential mystical barrier that might absorb some or all of the hit. The dice were only rolled at the end of the conflict, when everything is being resolved. The simple concept made certain abilities more powerful, others les

Neither here, nor there

Edges are mystically powerful. The transition between open plains and dense forest, the coastline between land and sea, the wizard's tower between the earth and the sky. The places unable to be clearly defined as neither one thing or another make a natural home for energies in flux, for the transformation of things. The realms of the Dark Places have laws of their own... these may follow the laws of the physical realm, an internally consistent dream rules, a paradigm matching an ancient set of mythical lore, or something else entirely. Magic can often be woven in these realms, but only if it follows the laws of the realm. The most powerful mystics learn to bridge realms with stable wormholes... much like a wizards tower connecting the earth and the sky. Within such wormholes, the wizard's belief sets the reality; these places exist outside time and space, they are sanctum sanctorum. Within a wormhole, a wizard may create subrealms according to their whim. Such realms might

Tweaking the fiddly bits

I've got a couple of hundred regular readers here, based on my daily viewer stats, even if I assume a percentage of them are just bots that trawl through pages and hit the pageview counter. The vast majority of you are silent, but a few of you provide 'likes' and '+1s', and some offer me interesting ideas or queries in comments and reshares. To those people, I'm grateful. Today though, a bit more about my generic version of The Law (the project with the working title of SNAFU ). There are quite a few ideas that didn't make it into the core rules for The Law, and a few design decisions under the surface which led to after effects and surface elements tbat might require a bit of unpacking. Benj Davis has brought up the concept of converting the Rank die to a generic format. Because I've been working with the background concepts so deeply over recent years, I didn't realise how strongly it appeared intertwined with the heirarchical structure of the

Boiling down the Essence

I'm working on the essence of The Law, because a few people have said that they like the system and would be interested in seeing it adapted to urban fantasy, standard fantsy, or even sword-&-sorcery. It's a sturdy enough core, not particularly wedded to the setting except through a couple of character abilities, and the investigation mechanisms (which could fairly easily be adapted to quest mechanisms). So the aim would be to produce a little 8 page booklet, or maybe a couple of pocketmods that boil down the essence of the rules. I previously described it as the SRD of The Law, but now I'm just calling it SNAFU which basically links it back to its roots in my game FUBAR.   

Mortals and Immortals

Another interesting post amongst the mini zeitgeist I'm currently working in can be found at the Pits Perilous blog by Olde House Rules ( find the post here ). It delves into the idea of long lived characters such as elves, and to a lesser extent dwarves, compared to traditionally shorter lived races such as humans. The article can instantly be seen as analogous to my dilemma of using player character spirits and familiars who run the gamut from a infant spritelings couple of months old through to immortal forces of nature for whom the entirety of recorded history has been the blink of an eye. It proposes an elegant solution, where all races reach maturity at much the same pace, then diverge once adulthood is attained. I've proposed similar ideas in the past, where human genetics sees cell degradation gradually accelerate (thus causing aging), while the cell degradation of other races occurs at differing rates (thus accounting for their varied lifespans while seeing basic

Balance and Imbalance.

Yesterday's post  got a bit of feedback, and that's great. It's also interesting to see parallel discussions emerging on various Facebook groups today. I don't know whether it's my superpower of "Tapping the Zeitgeist" at work again, or if those people starting the discussions were prompted by reading my blog. Either way, there's some good thoughts out there and I'd love to engage the area more deeply. One of the great points raised, came from Joseph Teller... " The questions in design you need to ask yourself is, does Age=Experience or does Activity=Experience? " It's an awesome question that isn't really addressed in a lot of games. I'll address it with some instances I've seen over the years. It was probably about four years ago when I joined up with the fledgling Clans of Elgardt LARP. During tbe first couple of months there were teething problems, including a "gold = XP" system akin to the early d

Unbalanced Asymmetry

The grizzled veteran partnered with the new recruit...the master and their apprentice...the immortal wizard, the elf who has lived for centuries, the dwarf only slightly younger, and the hobbits barely out of their adolescence. We've all encountered the stories where characters are not equals, yet it remains the default state of the table that everyone is "equal". I've certainly encountered long term games where characters are killed off, and then any new characters are introduced at base level. I'm similarly aware of campaign play in Ars Magica or Pendragon , where a single story can continue over the turning of decades and  generations. But the default is still the "equal" party across most gaming. Personally, I think the potential dynamics of young and old characters offers an added level to a story. I'm thinking of a system where characters start the game at various levels. Those who are young are still filled with dynamism and wonder, t


I've got this nasty habit of overanalysing things. I come up with a concept, then I tinker with it... I add bits to it... I work out how those new bits have modified the core... then modify them or add new bits until the whole thing is a Frakenstein mess that ends up getting stripped back to a raw foundation again. Sometimes the new iteration is back at the starting point, and sometimes it's a very different beast... at which point I analyse the differences to see what fulfils my goals better. It's an ongoing cycle. I shared my intention for a Dark Places character generation system, with 3 fragments determined by rolling a bunch of dice then allocating the results between different columns of a table. I've been working on this concept within the context of generating characters who would use the same system and be vaguely comparable in power to the Agents in The Law . This basically means attributes with an average starting score of d6, four defenses, four to se

What's happening to Walkabout?

So much happening in the many moving parts in my life at the moment. Walkabout hasn't been forgotten, it's just fermenting a little more. For the moment, here's an important project which will certainly help to feed into the game's narrative.

Dwellers in the Dark

Unlike this article by Zak S ., I'm not going to claim that I'm a genius inventor of something. More often than not, I say that I'm riding a cultural zeitgeist, sometimes putting together the fragments out there in the ether before someone with a bigger profile puts together similar components and gets the kudos for "an innovative and original idea". (If you don't include the degree of arrogance and ignorance, it's actually a decent article, with some useful stuff in the one place that would normally be spread across multiple sources). Many of the ideas in The Law are indirectly taken from the work of John Harper (where the rank die is akin to the "Hero Die" in Agon , and the connection to Ghost/Echo througn my own game FUBAR ), and the work of D. Vincent Baker (most notably his abandoned Otherkind Dice , which many people believe were morphed into the Apocalypse engine). One of the things I did first in FUBAR was more closely linked to


In The Law , I've got a quirky little table used to describe the reason an Agent joined the academy. It has two parts to the derived from a character's highest attribute, and one from their lowest attribute. Each attribute is cross referenced to a random result to create the start or end of a sentence, these are combined to give a deep character motivation. I think a part of the inspiration for this was stuff I was reading at the time about the starting equipment packages in Into the Odd , with my own spin applied. The whole idea was to get a wide variety of motivations, where different motivations basically made sense in the context of the character's stats. This comes back to mind, because someone I follow on Instagram shared the following image... ...I'm reading it as an interesting cross-referencing of two elements that might define a character, and then an idea for the most appropriate character class to fulfil these elements. That's basica

The Dark Places

Oubliette. Umbra. Shadowlands. Dreamscape. I've been working on some ideas again which I revisit every couple of years. I call it "The Dark Places", I don't know if I've mentioned it here on the blog. I have mentioned a few projects relating to them. It's basically a spirit realm, or network of interconnected realms orbiting around a planet like electron clouds orbiting an atomic nucleus. It's basically the way I ran most of White Wolf's spirit realms from the various World of Darkness games, and now it seems to be working as the wider cosmology for the familiars that I've been toying with (and the spiritual realm that exists around the setting of The Law ). A lot of it goes back to a character I called Chimera, a daughter of the god Morpheus, cast out of reality to inhabit the realms of spirits and dreams, only living vicariously in the mortal plane by entering the dreams of mortals, and seeing a twisted interpretation of the world through the

Nucleotide Bases

There are basically four  nucleotide bases , which make up the DNA.  Adenine  (A), Guanine  (G),  Thymine  (T) and  Cytosine (C). A DNA sequence looks some thing like this "ATTGCTGAAGGTGCGG". DNA is measured according to the number of  base pairs  it consists of, usually in  kBp  or  mBp (Kilo/Mega  base pairs ). I knew that yesterday's post was problematic. It was like giving someone the recipe to C4. Even of you know it can be used for good purposes, throwing it out there for anyone to use is asking for trouble. It might be time to pull in anothet idea I had z few yeats ago. Instead of rolling a d8 for each of the eighths, maybe roll a string of d4s, marking the results in order. Now the die results represent something a bit more abstract, the nucleotide bases of a DNA string. With 23 base pairs, we could maybe use a d10 for the Genetic ID die. If the random results were evenly distributed, tnere would be 5 or 6 of each protein type, thus giving an even chance of

The Cult of the Genetic Locus

I've had idea... it's for my game "The Law", if you haven't looked at it, go and do so immediately (it's on the GM's Day Sale )... The setting is Judge Dredd with the serial numbers filed off. There are mutants, cultists, rogue AIs, and corrupt agents to investigate. I've had what I think is a fun antagonist for a future sourcebook  but I think it might be a bit delicate and potentially troublesome. It's a fanatical religious pseudo-mystical cult who believe in eugenics, genetic purity, and a concept of 7 progenitors who founded the races of humanity. The aim would be to draw on the writings of the 19th century Theosophical Society (yes, those same writings that basically ended up contributing to the worldview of the Nazis), then to apply a pseudo-mystic technology to the concept. My seven progenitors will be semi-mythical beings, from millennia ago. Basically one from each continent; negroid, mongol, caucasoid, australoid, polynesian, [mid


If you aren't challenging yourself in some way, you aren't going to develop. I always trying to push myself artistically, or in some other way to develop a new skill or refine a skill I've got. I'm also a strong believer that if you're going to call someone out, you need to back up your words. So, when I called out James Shields for his half-inch square map, I had to do something adequately interesting to compete with it. So, why not a new thumbnail map, but this time continuing across all my nails.