Archive for May, 2009


The Politics of Racists

May 31, 2009

Stopped in my local game shop yesterday, only to see this:

The Politics of Cannibals

How postracially racist.


The Emperor’s Heart: Cards

May 31, 2009

As I’m grinding through the major rewrite and talking to friends I know, I’m realizing how much I had to sort through the playtest feedback I got from before – how much was about the actual procedures in play vs. what people want my game to do (whether it matches my vision or not) vs. game geek design wankery questions.

Since the last bit is actually the least useful towards game play, though clearly a hangup for folks, and since explaining it all ended up in my head whether I wanted to or not, I figured I’d better spill some of it out here on my blog and point to it when the next round of playtesting starts and I get those same questions. I’m going to try not to do this too often, since I don’t want to end up spending more time writing about the game than writing the game itself.

Why Cards?

The practical function of cards is this: they sit on the table in front of everyone, so everyone can look around the table and remember what’s going on- who’s character has what happening, what the situation is, etc. It’s designed for group reference.

It makes it easy to tie your characters’ Drama with other characters’ Drama (“Hey, you’ve got a Romantic Triangle, how about I take Unrequited Love?”). (And, I wanted a GM-less game, so it became crucial for everyone to be able to see this info. I’m probably switching over to a GM based scene framing, since I haven’t found a workable solution thus far).

Second, it changes character creation from “look in the book, write something down” to something where players pass along the Hero cards and the Drama cards and it gets people talking. “Maybe I’ll play the Cynical Maverick… Oh! What’s that? Assassin? Let me see!”

Even though most games now advise players to share character ideas as they’re building them, it’s still a 50/50 case from what I’ve seen- better to just set up your game so players interact from get go and start the conversation that way.

The final thing behind cards is that it makes things really easy to add or remove elements. I still need to find some way to train gamers to GIVE NAMES to their characters, but overall I’m happy with the cards as a design element.



May 30, 2009


Picked up the print version of award-winning Bayou today at the comic store. It’s how I would run Steal Away Jordan with a “Magical World” focus ala Amulet, Pan’s Labyrinth or Coraline.

It’s hits a perfect place for horror: the artwork makes you think of a children’s book, and the story let’s you know it’s anything but. There’s a very dark path in it- Lee is more empowered in the wonderland she finds herself in, but the threat now deals with the immortal soul… Creepy, awesome, horrifying.

Highly recommended!



May 29, 2009

I was thinking about what changes have happened design-wise, in the last 8 years or so in rpg design, and it both highlighted what (at least to me) are the biggest defining aspects of a given design as well as what defines a “Traditional RPG”.


Or: Input. How can players input into what happens?

In a traditional rpg, players are limited to affecting the fiction through the actions of their characters, while the GM is generally allowed to create the fiction directly.

Non-traditional games play with it- trading narration, giving players direct means to shape fiction, divvying up authority, etc.


What are players rewarded for doing?

Traditional games generally either follow the D&D structure (treasure or fighting), BRP (do a skill, skill gets better), or the GURPS model (show up to play), with anything outside of that being left to GM whim.

Non-traditional games surprisingly tend to follow the D&D route- reward according to the focus of the game, though many play with ideas like variable reward possibilities, putting strategic choices into reward mechanics, or divvying up who makes the rewards and/or for what reasons.


How does the overall arch of play go? How does “what happens?” get decided?

Traditional games generally either fall into the “Location Based” (aka the Dungeon) or the “Choose your own adventure” hidden flowchart/plot tree method, where the possibilities are not known to the players.

Non-traditional games have everything from a very exact list of the scenes to be played through, to mechanical pacing methods to scene to scene flow dictated by the players through mechanics.

Obviously, there’s probably some exceptions in this division, but I think it works pretty well and better than the focus of “GM power” which tends to cloud these conversations.


Green Lantern fan-made trailer

May 25, 2009

For a certain GL fan I know…