Game systems

May 4, 2005: 9:49 pm: Game systems

Michael S. Miller, designer of With Great Power… and other games, had these thoughts about the Amber Diceless RPG:

It seems to me that ADRP is so very perfect for this *because* it is a dysfunctional game, as written. The attribute auction is there to promote competion and rivalry from the very beginning. The fact that scores are rated primarily by comparative value enhances this. The fact that the comparison value can be re-evaluated by the GM based on the real world players making appeals to “This is also a Strength contest because…” is aimed at making each game session into a series of squabbles and begging for GM indulgence. How beautifully dysfunctional! It even encourages you to suck up the the GM in the form of character portraits, journals, etc.

ADRP, Sorcerer and My Life with Master are games about dysfunctional relationships. Sorcerer & MLwM seek to set up a functional dynamic among the *players & GM* so that they can all explore the dysfunction of the *characters* from a better perspective. It seems that, as written, ADRP seeks to replicate the dysfunction of the *characters* in the relations of the *players & GM.* No wonder so few people play it as written, and so many drift it into something functional and fun.

I think this is an interesting insight, and one I pretty much agree with. Even if you ignore the flaws in the ADRPG that its GMs and players have long since pointed out, there’s still a general theme of competition between players (rather than between characters) that the rules seem to encourage. That hardly seems like a recipe for a fun gaming group.

May 2, 2005: 9:39 pm: Game systems, Playing

Over the weekend I got to actually play in a Dogs in the Vineyard game, courtesy of Michael Croft. It was a fun time, and I was as impressed by the system as I’d hoped I would be. I’ll try to get a longer writeup together sometime this week, but for now I just wanted to say thanks to Michael (and Ginger) for the game.

April 10, 2005: 9:36 pm: Game systems

Unfortunately, I wasn’t the one doing the playing.

While I was travelling to ACUS, Vincent Baker posted to The Forge about the latest episode of his Primetime Adventures campaign, Epidemonology. Lots of useful insight into how necessary one of the rules turned out to be.

Oh, and I never noted something cool from Vincent’s previous post about the game, which is the use of cards.

We play with cards instead of dice. Red cards are successes, high card has buck-stoppage. This is going to be hard to explain, I think, but playing the game with cards is more fun than playing it with dice. I expected it to be just as much fun, but nope! It’s more fun. I think it’s because the interaction is streamlined. With dice, we count up how many dice everybody gets, then we roll them, then we count successes etc. With cards, dealing them out takes the place of both the counting up and the rolling. I’m like, “how many cards, three? Four? Okay, fwap fwap fwap fwap.” It’s a good little interaction. So I’d recommend playing with cards to anybody.

It looks like Matt Wilson is considering making cards the main way to play in the next edition, and they seem to still be working out well for Vincent’s group, so if I ever get the chance to play/run PTA, I think I’ll suggest cards over dice.

March 7, 2005: 8:20 pm: Game systems

This may be one of the coolest game design stories ever:

But here’s what’s happening now. Last fall sometime Sebastian, my 8 year old, told me about a comic he was planning to make. He didn’t tell me the story, he told me about the story: it’s two parallel stories, he said, one about a squad of space marines fighting a war, the other about their friends and families back home. The space marines are going to fight life and death battles, he said, while the people at home are going to have problems and struggles of their own. He told me a little about the marines’ power armor and landing crafts. I was there nodding right along and going “kid, you’re 8 – how can you be talking to me about parallel stories about marines and their loved ones back home? How do you know this crap? Where do you get these insights?” Anyway and he was like, “want to hear the title? Red Sky A.M.”

This blew me away. Red Sky A.M., like it were no thing, like it weren’t the best title in the history of space marines. Red Sky A. fuckin’ M.

So that’s been stewing in my brain. Then a couple of weekends ago Ben was visiting and I was bemoaning (again) the fact that Sebastian thought of it not me. I can’t bring myself to steal my kid’s genius idea and title! I was saying how I’d design it a game for grownups, not for kids, it would be a game about no shit war (and again, how did Sebastian nail it so perfectly?).

Meg was like, “you know what you could do? You could design and publish, credit him for the idea and the title, and put the proceeds into his college fund.”

That was the spark. Red Sky A.M. is the new project.

I’ll definitely be looking forward to this one.

January 30, 2005: 9:58 pm: Game systems

In case you hadn’t heard, Ken Hite has awarded Dogs in the Vineyard the Best New Game of 2004 Outie.

: 9:22 pm: Game systems

Last year my friend Lou was kind enough to pick me up copies of Matt Snyder’s Dust Devils and the newly released Nine Worlds at Gencon.

I read Dust Devils through not long after and was pretty darned impressed with it, which wasn’t all that big a surprise, considering all of the good things I’d read about it.

Then I went to tackle Nine Worlds and….well, it kind of stumped me. The text was rather dense, it was definitely in need of a good copyedit (probably because Matt rushed to get it finished in time for Gencon), and it just didn’t click for me. I was disappointed, because I could tell that there was something there worth understanding, and I just wasn’t getting it.

Well, there’s a thread called [Nine Worlds] Pop-Greek sci-fantasy, plus murder and sex over at The Forge where Ron “Sorcerer” Edwards talks about Nine Worlds, and now I think I’ve definitely got a better understanding of what’s going on in the game. Actually, I’m thinking that with a few minor tweaks it might make an interesting system for running an Amber campaign, though that would mean tossing out all of Matt’s excellent world building.

January 16, 2005: 8:54 pm: Game systems

Delta Green meets Dogs in the Vineyard in this thread over on The Forge.

What an excellent idea!

December 19, 2004: 8:51 pm: Game systems

Recently there was some discussion over on the Amber mailing list about adding a Social stat to the Amber Diceless RPG, in order to better reflect the abilities of people like Florimel. As discussions on AML so often do, this one descended into a flame war, with some people deciding that having social abilities was somehow akin to mind control, or that it replaced roleplaying.

Over on his Livejournal, Matt proposed what I think is a way to make such a stat workable:

What would I do with a “social” stat? I’d use it as a superior version of “Allies”, for one; the higher the social stat rank, the more likely the character is to have an ally in the right place at the right time. Additionally, it affects reputation. If Flora uses her Socialise stat to attack Benedict, her player has to describe what she’s doing (start a rumour that he was the one who swiped Random’s favourite drums), and how (have it whispered in court, and in taverns). If Benedict has a high enough social stat, he can find out about the attack in time to do something about it (his spy network might be sensitive to this kind of thing; he might send soldiers to intimidate the people telling these rumours or seed dozens of conflicting rumours to defuse the whole thing). If Flora outranks Benedict, his defence fails. If she outranks him by a lot, he doesn’t even realise its going on until it has become “common knowledge”.

While it may need to be refined a bit, I think this basic idea is a great way to go about adding such a stat. It doesn’t trump roleplay, it’s not much use for directly controlling another PC, and it has the potential to let characters shine in a new area. If I ever actually run another game using the ADPRG rules, I’ll be giving serious consideration to adding it in.

December 16, 2004: 10:22 pm: Game systems

I can finally post about this, now that it’s official!

The Dresden Files Roleplaying Game

See the press release here. This is good news indeed, as the rights have gone to someone who will take the material seriously, and has already proven that they’re capable of designing a good game.

November 21, 2004: 9:44 pm: Game systems

So, Clinton R. Nixon, one of the head guys at The Forge and designer of fine games like The Shadow of Yesterday, Paladin, and Donjon, started this thread by posting Clinton’s Fourth Axiom of Game Design:

Any good RPG can, with a minimum of effort, be used to play Jedi.

A little ways into the thread he was challenged to play Jedi using Kill Puppies for Satan. His response?

Kill Rebels for Palpatine

You’re a Dark Jedi, one of hundreds turned out by the Sith Academy in the rising days of the Empire. Almost every one of you has minimal power, but that’s the way evil empires work: churn out a hundred expendables instead of one good soldier. Because you’re not powerful enough to actually use, you get a mid-level Empire job. Maybe you’re a Stormtrooper, or maybe an overseer of a colonized village. Either way, it blows, and being you ain’t so great either, so you use the little power you have to lord it over everyone around you.


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