Author Archive

September 6, 2006: 9:00 pm: Game systems

I’ve been thinking about how well some of the most recent crop of indie games might work for Amber roleplaying, and the one that seems to have the most promise is Hero’s Banner, which I previously mentioned in this post. I mean, a game about royal-born characters in a fantasy setting who are making important life choices just seems like it’d be a natural match. Maybe if I buy a copy I’ll plan on running an version set in Amber at the next TBR….

September 3, 2006: 7:59 pm: Game theory (or close enough)

Ben Lehman (creator of Polaris) talks about designing RPGs in terms of social context.

It’s also important to realize that these are, explicitly, design concerns, reaching through creative and technical agendas and operating at all levels of a text. This is not a simple case of going “okay, this game is going to be outreach to non-gamers” and then feeling good about yourself. To function, your social context level goals have to completely suffuse every game design decision you make. And even then it might not work (more about that later.)

It’s interesting stuff, whether you’re designing a game or not.

: 4:23 pm: Game theory (or close enough)

I finally got around to reading the “Big Gencon stakes discussion” thread over on Story Games, which is based on things Ron Edwards had to say at the con about the idea of “stakes.”

As is often the case with things Ron says, it’s the comments and questions from others that really help lead me toward understanding just what he’s talking about, and in this case there are especially illuminating contributions from John Harper, Nathan Paoletta and a few more. I had some definite “Oh, I get it now!” moments while I was reading.

If you’re at all interested in setting “stakes” in RPGs, either as a player or a game designer, it’s well worth the time it’ll take to get through.

ETA: There’re also some good points on the same topic in this Forge thread.

August 23, 2006: 7:31 pm: Game systems

If you’re an Amber fan and you’ve been keeping up with threads on Story Games you’ve probably already seen this, but for those that haven’t, here’s a pretty good discussion of what’s good about roleplaying in Amber.

August 15, 2006: 7:35 pm: Game systems

I’ve been reading Gencon reports (it sounds like most had a very good time), and there are a few new games that are getting quite a lot of buzz. I went and checked some of them out as best I could, so now I think there are at least two more games that I’ll probably be adding to my want list:


AGON is a competitive RPG set in a fantastic version of ancient Greece similar to that of the Illiad and the Odyssey. The heroes work together against the enemies and obstacles created by the Antagonist, but the players compete to win the most glory for their heroes.The player who earns the most glory wins the game.

Hero’s Banner: The Fury of Free Will

Hero’s Banner: The Fury of Free Will is a fantasy roleplaying game about making life choices in a world filled with expectation. Your character consists, primarily, of three “influences,” or possible life callings. These might include anything from choosing to marry for love instead of political gain to choosing the life of a soldier over that of a courtly diplomat. Whatever the character is struggling with, he spends his time forming alliances and developing other connections to each influence. But with choice comes loss. As your character slowly progresses towards an inevitable end he will lose friends and ability along the way. The more he specializes, the better he becomes, but also the more he must give up. And eventually, he will have to abandon two of his influences altogether — making one final choice.

I’ll have to keep an eye out for AP (Actual Play) posts, but what I’ve read about each game so far sounds pretty darned good.

August 7, 2006: 8:59 pm: Game systems, Game theory (or close enough)

Thor Olavsrud has posted an excellent behind-the-scenes series of posts about the making of Burning Empires, the new sci-fi game from the creators of Burning Wheel that’ll be available at this year’s Gencon.

Last week I posted about Brennan’s description of his process for writing Mortal Coil, and promised that I would give Burning Empires a similar treatment. Well, here’s where I start to deliver. It was such a long, intense process (I’ve been gathering notes and consulting with Luke about it for the past two days) that I’ve decided I need to break it down into multiple posts.

The series starts here, and it’s pretty interesting.

July 31, 2006: 9:03 pm: Game systems

Erick “Phage Press” Wujick has a post over on about the current status of the Amber RPG licence.

Unfortunately, Guardians started experiencing their problems just around the same time they took on Amber (Summer of 2004). Since we’ve been friends for years (Mark is the guy who started the Amercon North in Toronto), I told him there was no hurry (it’s not as if I had been a ball of fire producing content for Amber), so we never got to creating or signing a formal agreement.

I have appointed a proxy to deal with the situation (since I’m off in Shanghai, China, I don’t have a lot of choice), and my proxy and I will deal with the situation over the next few days. It seems likely that I’ll be assigning the Amber stock, and the role of distributor, to another third party. Note that I said ‘likely’ — not certainly, because not all the facts are in.

In other words, Phage Press (with the permission of the Zelazny estate) still controls the Amber RPG rights, since they were never officially transferred over to Guardians of Order. Of course, that would seem to put things about where they were before GoO got involved, which hardly raises hopes for a revamped Amber RPG.

July 30, 2006: 11:14 am: Game systems

The word has come down that Guardians of Order is officially dead [right column, scroll down]. The fact that this news has come out via George R.R. Martin rather than being posted on front page of the company’s website is just another example of how GoO owner Mark MacKinnon has managed to make this whole situation worse than it needed to be with his stubborn refusal to communicate. I hope that at least some of GoO’s games find new homes, and that the customers who have unfulfilled orders are able to get either their merchandise or their money.

As for Amber, I’d be surprised if the license actually got picked up by anyone. I’ll freely admit that I don’t know how much GoO actually paid for the RPG rights, but I’m guessing that it’s out of the range of what an indie developer might want to pay, and it’s not like there’s some promise of big profits to lure in someone like Mongoose.

ETA: Mark McKinnon’s official GoO is dead announcement on Personally, I wouldn’t have chided GRRM, but I realize some people like to live dangerously.

July 23, 2006: 3:16 pm: Game systems

I’ve realized that there isn’t any new indie RPG out there that’s grabbed ahold of my head since back when Jason started talking about The Shab-al-Hiri Roach last Fall. I’ve found myself feeling pretty meh about actually buying any new RPGs, and I especially noticed my lack of enthusiasm when a friend who has previously picked up indie games for me at Gencon asked if there was anything that I wanted him to get for me this year. I couldn’t come up with anything.

Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t a few games out there that have aroused some interest. For example, Don’t Rest Your Head sounds like it’s pretty cool, as does Mortal Coil. Neither one has grabbed my imagination the way Dogs, PTA, The Mountain Witch, or The Roach did before I bought them though, so I’m going to have to start working on finding and reading some actual play posts. Maybe then I’ll feel more inspired to actually part with some money and buy another game or two.

Anyone have any recent (or near-future) releases they’d like to recommend?

July 12, 2006: 8:27 pm: Cons

Some other people have also posted about their TBR 2006 experiences, so here’s a sampling of those:

Ginger: TBR after-action report

Carolyn: TBR: The Roundup

Paul: TBR 2006 Part I (Travel, Social) [plus more in later posts]

Christine: My experience at TBR

Deb: A quick writeup for TBR

Mel: Part 3: Friday 30th June 2006: The Black Road begins [plus more in later posts]

[Edited to add -- ]

J.P.: TBR 2006 to Date