Game systems

December 26, 2006: 9:19 pm: Game systems

So I was watching the first couple of episodes of Brisco County, Jr. the other day (thanks to my best friend giving me the DVD set for Christmas), and it seemed to me that it might be a setting that’d be well-served by Spirit of the Century. It was, after all, a very pulp sort of Western.

I’ll definitely have to give this more thought….

November 25, 2006: 9:42 pm: Game systems

I bought a PDF copy of Don’t Rest Your Head a few weeks ago for cheap, when Fred announced a one day sale.

I still haven’t done more than skim it.


Especially when someone like Ken Hite says:

I should warn you that this game hits many, many of my PsychLims, as we say in Hero. It has the flavored dice pools of Bacchanal, the character-centered stories of Dread, and the terrifying gnosticism of Kult. And it plays like Call of Cthulhu on crystal meth. Does the “Sanity death spiral” get you down? Well then, stay far away from a game where just going to sleep opens you up to being devoured by nightmares. I’m talking about Fred Hicks’ concentrated blast of pepper spray to the eyes, Don’t Rest Your Head (82-page 6″x9″ softcover, $15). This is a game about the ragged edge of insanity and what you find there between sleep and death. The PCs are all insomniacs. They can’t sleep. (After Hours. Insomnia. Just sayin’.) But their insomnia gives them magic powers, and lets them see into the Mad City that exists all around the sleeping city they ostensibly live in. (Dark City.) Each player has to answer five questions about his character — those five answers drive the stories, like Sorcerer kickers. And Hicks gives real, solid, 24-hour-diner-breakfast advice on working those questions into the story. Just look at this genius stuff: The mechanic is a dice pool; add dice to Exhaustion, Discipline, or Madness. The GM’s dice are called Pain. One of those four will win. Your character will change. The struggle will go on. And you still can’t sleep. Or even rest your head. This game is really well done, no matter what your dreams are like. And if, like mine, they come from a rich diet of Grant Morrison and H.P. Lovecraft, then this game will tear open your skull and let the monsters in.

Sounds good, don’t it?

November 13, 2006: 10:03 pm: Game systems

Apparently it was announced at Ambercon NorthWest a week and change ago that the rights to Amber roleplaying have been bought from Eric Wujick by Edwin Voskamp and Eric Todd.

Edwin later posted this to the Amber mailing list (which isn’t actually archived anywhere, so I can’t link to his post):

The reason why I pursued Erick Wujcik for the rights to Amber DRPG is not to ‘fix’ Amber, or for self aggrandization. I have had my most impressive, most satisfying roleplaying within the Amber DRPG community. I have also seen many GMs and Players leave the Amber DRPG community because it no longer excites them, because they feel they have seen everything.

Much of what Erick attempted to achieve with the Amber DRPG is obtuse, not made explicit. Much of what has been done by the community at large is not known everywhere. Much has been done since the book came out, 20-ish years ago.

Eric and I are looking to help rejuvenate the community, show what’s been done, what can be done, how people got from what was there then to coming up with something new. We are hoping to help retain GMs and players, bring in new ones, hopefully bring back some.

We are looking to do this in a way that involves the community, gets input, contribution from the community. Whether this list is the best way, Yahoo! Groups, forums, designer’s blogs, we have not determined.

We are looking to do this in a way, not by fixing the Amber DRPG, not by replacing it, but by taking its core, exposing design decisions, consequences, assumptions implicit in choices and by adding to it, to open up the game, in mechanics, setting and possibilities.

I have to admit that I’m a bit dubious about how this will end up working out, especially since it sounds like their plans for the second edition involve tweaking rather than an overhaul, and later comments seem to indicate that this isn’t yet a done deal anyway. Still, I wish them the best of luck with it, even if I don’t see myself actually buying a second edition of the ADRPG.

October 27, 2006: 8:47 pm: Game systems

As recently announced in this thread on Story Games, and explained in greater detail in this thread on his own blog, Troy Costisick is trying out a new way of selling his RPGs:

I am going to offer customers the opportunity to purchase a subscription to my games rather than purchase each new game as it comes out. A subscription would include four books that would come out quarterly (every three months) and be complete, self-contained games. This is not a model where I create one “Core Rules” and release supplements every quarter. Each game is a unique individual and very fun to play.

He’s calling it DL-Quarterly, and you can find out more (and get a subscription) on the official product page.

October 23, 2006: 9:43 pm: Game systems

Here’s something worth posting about.

Game designer Matt Snyder (Dust Devils, Nine Worlds) has come up with an alternate experience system for D20 games that he calls Wyrd (though it’s now been dubbed WyrD20 in this Story Games thread).

This is an alternative experience system for D20. Players must create and complete goals for their characters to advance levels. Each goal is called a Wyrd. It is a specific fictional goal (or “in-game” goal) that the player will try to fulfill for his player character. Completing a Wyrd earns the player experience points.

Basically, it replaces racking up levels simply based on what a character manages to hack and slash with a system that rewards creating and achieving character goals. Pretty neat, if still a work in progress.

September 11, 2006: 8:38 pm: Game systems

Clinton R. Nixon posted about a few interesting new games he found on the 1km1kt free RPGs page, and my favorite of the bunch is Satanic Mills:

An inhuman power hums in the shuttles and valves of a 19th century English factory town. An alien power that lies congealed in the cloth and steel manufactured there. A hostile power that twists bone, robs children of their youth, and turns neighbors against neighbors. It is more terrifying than any unholy spirit, slithering lifeform or doomsday device because this horror is real, grounded in social relations. It is alienation and it is generated anew each shift as men, women, and children toil at the machines.

That’s right, it’s an RPG based on Karl Marx’s Theory of Alienation!

In a nutshell Marx’s Theory of Alienation is the contention that in modern industrial production under capitalist conditions workers will inevitably lose control of their lives by losing control over their work. Workers thus cease to be autonomous beings in any significant sense. Under pre-capitalist conditions a blacksmith, e.g., or a shoemaker would own his own shop, set his own hours, determine his own working conditions, shape his own product, and have some say in how his product is bartered or sold. His relationships with the people with whom he worked and dealt had a more or less personal character.

Under the conditions of modern factory production, by contrast, the average worker is not much more than a replaceable cog in a gigantic and impersonal production apparatus. Where armies of hired operatives perform highly monotonous and closely supervised tasks, workers have essentially lost control over the process of production, over the products which they produce, and over the relationships they have with each other. As a consequence they have become estranged from their very human nature, which Marx understood to be free and productive activity. Human beings cannot be human under these conditions, and for this reason the implication was obvious for Marx: Capitalism has to be abolished as much as any political oppression if a society’s emancipation is to be complete. Capitalism is just as incompatible with self-determination as absolute monarchy or any other autocratic system. But while an absolute monarchy limits people’s autonomy by controlling them in the sphere of politics, Capitalism does so by controlling their workplaces and their economic life. A society of truly free citizens, according to Marx, must therefor not only be a political, but also an economic and social democracy.

The rules for the game fill up only a two page PDF, which is pretty impressive given the complexity of the subject matter, so I might be tempted to actually run it if I get the opportunity. Whether or not that ends up happening, I’m darned impressed that someone even thought to base an RPG on something like this.

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….

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.

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