Archive for October, 2011


Narrativist Play, Prep, and Setting

October 31, 2011

Ron Edwards has a new essay on Setting & Emergent Stories, which is a great, relatively easy read on the differences between Illusionism vs. Narrativism, Narrativism focused on characters vs. setting, and how to prep for Narrativist play, especially if you have a game that isn’t designed for Nar play.

It’s a nice tie in to my post on Risk & Emotional Investment.

I also think this in particular is really worth thinking about:

3. Seeing an overt, culturally-supported conflict.

4. Seeing potential for culturally-unexpected, deconstructive conflict (internal or external)

My own overt angle on that sits in my Heroquest Hack with regards to community values and character generation. Less overtly, it’s encoded in a lot of the fill-in sentences in the Extended Character Concept Generator.

Likewise, Conflict Maps also key on this concept as well- first in demarcating sides in a conflict, but the second part about deconstructive conflicts by giving each figurehead, 2 attached characters who angle about HOW or WHY to complete some given goals – it sets up the classic Kirk/Spock/Bones trio.

What happens in play is that you find the group naturally focuses on certain conflicts and ignores others – this is a very natural, and organic way to focus play.


Wolsung steampunk RPG preview

October 21, 2011

Apparently a Polish steampunk-fantasy rpg – Wolsung is being translated into English.

The preview rules seem neat enough, there’s some indie rpg influence as well with stakes setting, and the special powers/abilities seeming a bit like Keys/Secrets from the Shadow of Yesterday.

It also seems like a lighter version of the neat stuff from Deadlands – mixing cards, dice, and tokens to run things.

But of course, Steampunk is the past if it were AWESOME, the way you’d want to imagine it

A horrifying faux-aboriginal person image, exemplifying the worst of stereotypes

A ridiculous Fu-Manchu character, also horribly stereotyped

If you believed non-white people were the stereotypes of white media in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s, when people tried to measure intelligence by judging the shape of their heads.

I guess I’ll have to toss this in the same category of games as Into the Far West – another game which looked neat but I will have to warn folks away from on general principle.

ETA – so it looks like they decided to pull those two images off of their website gallery. (Mind you, those images are still in the book…) Funny given the sheer amount of defensive bluster about how those images aren’t racist or problematic at all, that they’re now suddenly not available at their site anymore… I mean, clearly people thought this artwork wasn’t just OK, but as GOOD, which is why it got showcased in their gallery to begin with right? Way to stand by your words, there.


About Deeper in the Game

October 21, 2011

Who I’m writing for

Geeks of color and marginalized folks.  Those of us who have always been at creative forefronts and had our fantasies and happy mental escapes policed and harried by the usual Hatebro kind of crowd.   Those of us who love to make stories together, with a bit of dice rolling and unexpected outcomes along the way.

I’ve been playing RPGs since the mid 80s and writing about RPGs online in various places since the early 2000s.  Some of my ideas or ways of communicating said ideas has evolved, and some are pretty much the same.


I’ve started breaking out key posts on the sidebar under appropriate categories.

The numbered links indicate the order I think people will get the most from reading in that order, the unnumbered ones are pretty much good at any point.

I’ve made it easy not to be stupid, so don’t be stupid

The comments are off on nearly every post these days.

Some people, for some strange reason, take that as an indication that I secretly want to talk to them, and that, they should either go looking through old posts OR go stalk me down on other websites.  It’s been mostly creepy racist white dudes who hold grudges because “It’s all they have”.

Needless to say – the more effort and commitment you put into being terrible will be noted as such.


If you think your gaming or game design has been improved by what I write, please hook me up with a few bucks at my Patreon.  I’m no longer in desperate need of cash like when I was fighting or recovering from cancer, but the extra cash is appreciated.

“I would like to use your writing!”

Thanks for the thought!  As usual under copyright law, you can quote and attribute appropriately in other works.  I do not give permission for my posts or writing to be used in entirety, including as translations.

(A number of years back, someone decided to publish a book using some of my theory without notifying me.  When I contacted them, they “claimed” they found my work “anonymously” posted in another language.  Either way, people can’t act right, so the answer is a flat no, all around, these days.  Sorry.)


Genocide: The Funtimes

October 16, 2011

Who remembers Patricia Wrede’s decision to erase all NDN folks from the Americas for her book?

Wasn’t that awesome? You know what else is awesome? Changing indigenious peoples into Orcs because having the players “accidentally” commit genocide is awesome. (warning: link is rage inducing. But I’d hope that’d be pretty obvious.)

And just a few years back, I wrote about how the language used to describe orcs was identical to the language used to describe natives historically

Let’s start with problem #1:

– main reasons to why relations between white settlers and indians went sour?

Having internet access and asking this question is rather disingenuous. A lot like “What went sour between Germans and Jews in WW2?” It’s a mystery!

But also: why would you ask this question on a gaming forum instead of a history site? Why would you lead off without mentioning the point until halfway through, if you didn’t actually think there was something problematic about it? What part of “Gotcha! You’re genocidal war criminals!” part of game playing is fun?

What mindset shifts the genocidal violence into “misunderstandings”??? That’s like saying someone got stabbed 87 times because my hand slipped.

There’s plenty of room for rpgs to deal with serious issues, but part of that requires honesty to the history and situation.

Again, though, people act as if native folks are extinct or mythical and not numbering in the millions, and keep reducing their lives and history to either appropriated exotification ala Ganakagok or absence such as the upcoming Into The Far West.

Basically, if the only way you can treat people is to either rewrite their history wholesale, make magical creatures that fit the same racist stereotypes used to justify genocide, OR simply not have them exist in your media…well, that says a lot about you.


At this point, the thread has pretty much revealed the whole racist situation going on.

1. Ask an “innocent” question.

2. Big reveal of racist bullshit for maximum drama
a) it’s clear he understands it’s problematic, which is why he didn’t come straight with it to begin with.
b) pretends it’s a hypothetical situation

3. 2nd Big reveal “I’ve been playing it already! And my (white) players aren’t hurt by it, therefore you all are stupid and my racism is totally ok and awesome” self-cockstroking.

Notice, at no point, is he acting in good faith to any conversation at all in that thread, but began it and proceeded, through the whole process, to lie for the sake of maximizing attention.

Like, he could have continued playing his game and not posted about it, but “Gaming Genocide is Awesome Let Me Show You” clearly was too much to resist.

And while roleplaying is a tiny sub-sub-culture, this attitude basically reflects the general issues of white supremacy elsewhere as well: “Let me explain to you why genocide (while regrettable) was totally understandable and re-rationalize it for you.”

White supremacy evangelism, basically.


Flags, reminder

October 11, 2011

Some time back, when Riddle of Steel and Burning Wheel first came out, I coined a term, “Flags”.

Flags are mechanics designed for the players to explicitly tell the GM, and the rest of the group, what they want the story to focus on.

Unfortunately, the explicit part seems to get lost a lot, and I -keep- seeing people talk about flags and start saying, “Well, if someone gets a high Sword skill, it’s because they WANT to have a game about sword fighting! Clearly!”

…well, maybe. Players can take a high score or rating for a lot of reasons, not all of which is that is what actually excites them about a character:

1) Yes! I want more swordfighting! Woo!

2) If I don’t get a high combat skill, my character will die. I have to do this in order to actually survive long enough to enjoy the game.

3) My character has a background in military matters, I need to have a high sword skill because it fits my vision of plausibility. I don’t care if we have another sword fight again.

4) My character was once a terrible murderer. He’ll never pick up the sword again, but that skill is there as a reminder.

Notice: “Sword 8” doesn’t tell you what or why any of these reasons might be. Now imagine you just decide to toss a sword fight at them thinking it will be fun – the reactions are going to be very different based on the motivations:

1) “Alright! I get to shine!”

2) “Ugh. A fight. What a chore. I’m glad I put all those points into sword fighting so I could get this over with.”

3) “Huh. A sword fight. Ok, I guess.”

4) “I’m not going to fight. I’ve killed enough, already.”

This is why Flags are explicit. Scores are insufficient to tell you what a player wants from it, and whether their choices are made out of wanting more, wanting less, or just wanting it for background purposes.


Gaming in Review

October 11, 2011

In the last two years, I’ve played or ran:

– 2 campaigns of Primetime Adventures
– A multisession adventure of Mouse Guard
– A full Apocalypse World campaign
– A one-off AW game
– A con game of Bliss Stage
– 2 sessions of Hot Guys Making Out
– A one-shot PTA session
– A one-shot of the Ecology of the Mud Dragon
– 2 story arcs of Sorcerer (Sorcerer/Exalted)
– A few sessions of Burning Wheel
– Jumped into session of CAPEs
– Attempted a PBEM game of Blood & Honor (crumbled due to time constraints on everyone)
– A couple of one shots of 4E D&D
– I’m sure I’m forgetting some other one-shots as well…

…and I’m about to get into short D&D campaign.


Sorcerer Exalted: Now with Dogs in the Vineyard!

October 11, 2011

My ongoing Sorcerer/Exalted game has been going better – we’ve worked out the technical kinks, and mostly it’s about me keeping on top of scene control and, basically putting my hand in the mix to keep the momentum up.

One of the things I realized after prepping for this week is how much the Town set up advice from Dogs in the Vineyard has been guiding my prep for this game as well.

The short version of the DITV advice is: In a community, there’s an injustice of some sort, a reaction, and between all this, either the community is about to fall apart, has fallen apart, or is so radically changed from expectations that it forms a problem in and of itself.

In the case of Exalted’s setting, the fun thing is that I can have a lot of options to play with the idea:

1) People vs. People (Imperial injustice, local power plays, intrigue amongst Dragonblooded)
2) Spirits & Gods vs. People (failure to sacrifice, failure to protect, protection turned to tyranny, angry spirits, etc.)
3) Past lives vs. People (Solar Exalted’s past excesses, injustices committed against the Exalted, etc.)

Now that I’ve got this consciously in mind, next go around will be really interesting.