Archive for June, 2012


Ben Lehman’s Pay What You Want Game Sale

June 26, 2012

Ben has done “Pay what you want” before, now he’s offering some of his games for free, with a pay what you want donation option. It’ll be a new game every day. I’ll be adding links as new games come up.

Clover: a game about childhood – the cute adventures of a little girl going around the neighborhood.

Bliss Stage: Teen emo drama, giant robots, and nightmare dimensions (Direct download of PDF here)

Ecology of the Mud Dragon: Pathetic tiny dragons attempt to kidnap princesses – hilarity ensues. (Direct download of PDF here)

Polaris: Knights defend a doomed society, how much will you sacrifice? (Direct download of PDF here)

The Drifter’s Escape: A Drifter just tries to make it through, but The Devil and The Man both want the Drifter’s soul… (Direct Download of PDF here)

Animal Crime: A noir crime story in Animal City (Direct Download of PDF here, Playsheets here)

XXXXtreme Street Luge: A game of bragging badassery of ballistic barrelling down the blacktop Direct Download of PDF here.

Beloved: A solo game of seeking the impossible and defeating the impossible. Direct Download of PDF here.

Being a role-playing game on the topic of the High-Flying adventures of Beatrice Henrietta Bristol-Smythe, DBE, daring Aviatrix and accomplished Exploratrix, and her Gentleman Companion, who for a Modest Fee, accompanies Beatrice Henrietta Bristol- Smythe, DBE, when the Occasion warrants her an Escort. (A pulp steampunk game) Direct Download of PDF here.



June 16, 2012

Monsterhearts is an rpg about modern supernatural horror, teen angst, and people facing their worst selves.

It delivers on the Being Human, Buffy, True Blood, Vampire Diaries kind of story perfectly and basically does everything Vampire the Masquerade talked about but never really got down.

Social Drama

As your vampire/werewolf/ghost/other freaky character deals with all the usual drama of high school and supernatural pressures, most of what the game focuses on is the emotional and social confrontations. All the good shit talking, shade throwing, goodness that makes up the sorts of young adult social status games.

When you do specific actions, you end up rolling dice and the for each type of action (Turn Someone On, Shut Someone Down, Manipulate, etc.) you get to pick a few choices of events from a list – sometimes these are things that give you more control over the person, sometimes they let you change their situation (“I give him the condition Humiliated!”).

Of course being a supernatural game, there’s room for violence, but violence is very risky, even if you must, the power-gamer way to deal with it would be to – engage with your target socially, either befriending them for the eventual betrayal or a lot of shit talking shade to get some bonuses for when it eventually goes down.

Becoming a Better Person

Monsterhearts is pretty amazing because it’s one of the best treatments of both the dark side of people and the way in which folks mature.

Each character type has their “Darkest Self” – which isn’t just about their supernatural side taking over, but more importantly, about how they emotionally lash out and at whom.

Think about all the times you’ve shut out your friends, or said the most hurtful fucked up thing to someone you care about – each character type has some way that reflects that kind of behavior as their Darkest Self.

Certain things in play kick in the Darkest Self, and you stay in that mode until you do a specific thing or conditions are met that end it… which can lead to some extended time to burning a lot of bridges and creating a LOT of damage. As the game points out – every player character becomes a villain when their Darkest Self takes over.

But what’s interesting is that after a point in play, some new options become available to the characters – “Growing Up” Moves.

Growing Up Moves are basically parallels to the basic options every character has- except these are just more socially responsible and with less drama and trouble attached – they are literally matured and better ways of dealing with people.

Instead of “Shutting Someone Down” you can “Call Them On Their Shit” – mechanically it changes from humiliating and causing social harm to someone, instead, to breaking their bonds of power over other people- a perfect counter to bullies and manipulators.

And very true to life, while these things become things your characters earn, it doesn’t mean you can’t choose to fall back into the more immature options at any point- the process of growth isn’t a simple “level up” and it’s always fun to see when, where and how characters fall.


The art shows men, women, people of color, and nothing problematic! There’s a couple of pages on the fact that the game defaults to queer inclusive. The very first image inside the book is a lesbian kiss which is looks “real people” attractive and not male gaze “hot pron models” attractive.

Overall this game looks really awesome and I recommend it!


Guy Shalev’s Friendship Game

June 9, 2012

With my game group having left the country for the summer, I’ve been getting some online gaming through Google Plus, which has been good. Last week I ran an Avatar The Last Airbender game using Guy Shalev’s Friendship Game.

The Friendship Game basically works on two economies – Light and Dark Tokens. Light Tokens are what you need to start scenes and to engage in conflicts using the dice, or to get bonus dice.

Light Tokens are earned mostly by doing friendship-type things – trusting your friends, helping them out, etc. Dark Tokens are earned by keeping secrets and the problems they cause – but Dark Tokens always eventually break open and must be revealed- which then earns everyone involved – more Light Tokens.

We had a great time, and I think if anything, I may end up houseruling down the number of ways you can get Light Tokens, but we’ll see.


The Closing of the Forge

June 1, 2012

Today is the scheduled day for the closing of the Forge Forums.

If you enjoy what I write here, you can attribute it to the time I spent at the Forge – much of what I write is directly stuff developed from Forge ideas.

A trail of a messy process

It’s always been funny because over the years, I see so many people applaud something I’ve written AND turn around and say how the Forge is full of bullshit, even when what I wrote was exactly Forge stuff. It’s funny when I still see people say stuff like, “Forgies HATE gamism” and then link my D&D tactics or skill challenge advice.

I do think the Forge IS generally impenetrable, and that’s mostly because the hot period of development was a lot of people trying to deprogram gamer baggage from their heads while developing a new language to describe what they see – while in the discussion space equivalent of a mosh pit.

Projections vs. Effects

Internet culture and weird gamer status issues always assumed the point was one of religious conversion – that basically any theory was developed solely with the idea of changing everyone’s mind, or that any game was made with the goal of becoming bigger than D&D…

Instead of the fact that right now you can go to major game communities and find people talking about actual play instead of admonitions about what perfect, theoretical play looks like, or that people accept that indeed, there’s more than one way to play that is legitimately fun, and that shitty behavior amongst people is legitimately NOT fun. The Forge didn’t need to be the sole lever in that process, but certainly played a big part.

Spaces and Honesty

At the same point, I do feel there is no place which has taken up the space the Forge is leaving behind. (And with honesty, that gap has existed for several years now, especially with the brain drain at the Forge)

Not just in developing a critical community which is valuable for game design, but also in a space where people can trade info about publishing – costs, printers, warehouses, software, etc. – nitty gritty stuff, including their sales and what worked and why – which often is as big a pitfall as design concerns.

Part of that is that a critical community is a supportive space in which you can call out bullshit as well. The Forge was excellent in being a space where the usual veils for myths got stripped away – prestige, oft-repeated truisms, “common wisdom” that had no basis in reality, etc.

Unfortunately, without that, instead of an array of valid experiences and information to choose from, you end up with having to try to guess the real from the false, which is the most dangerous to the newest publishers who end up having to commit time or money and gamble on things like how much to publish, how to set up their business, etc.

This is also true about design and the ability to push the envelope or to fully discover your vision beyond the games you’re only familiar with.

The Forge had a good run, and it’ll be interesting to see if anyone else can actually learn the lessons about community management necessary to create that sort of critical work community again.