Archive for October, 2012

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Tenra Bansho Zero: Wait, I like this scenario…

October 25, 2012

Finally got to reading the included “playset” with the game – basically a nailed down setting bit for people to play in.

Normally I hate specific setting stuff in games – either lots of dry almanac style information that you have to crack open and think hard about to make useful, or lots of completely meandering history that is too convoluted and disjointed in it’s own ways. I had saved reading this towards the end of going through the book because I’m so used to being disappointed in this stuff.

Here, TBZ homes in on a simple, important issue – only talk about what is relevant to leading to current conflicts. In 21 pages you get few states to work with, but basically in 11 pages you get a good focus on one, with an idea of what it’s recent struggles are, what direction it’s going, what threatens it, and who are the folks in power that might save or damn it.

Like a good character, it’s got a direction and motivations driving the whole land and it’s politics. The characters are also laid out with their own goals and desires, and any one of them would be equally as entertaining as a PC as much as an NPC, and since they’re left without stats, it’s pretty easy to swing them either way. What helps is that no one is a clear villain – everyone’s got an understandable motive.

Under each section describing something or a character, they give suggestions story/situation ideas to jump into play with.

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Primetime Adventures: Resonator!

October 21, 2012

We’ve finished the most recent campaign of Primetime Adventures, which we’ve been playing a lot of over the last 3 years.

This campaign was basically an 80’s anime combiner mecha show, basically built around 80’s Cold War except in space… with giant robots and aliens, of course.

One thing about PTA that remains always awesome is the way in which even when you fail a conflict scene, and it emotionally hits you in the gut, it’s still fulfilling in the way good stories close well even when they’re not happy endings.

PTA’s mechanics work into this:

1. Players create Issues for their characters. These become the driving points of conflict so what we see of the characters is more around their issues of growth or failure in doing so.

2. Conflicts are built differently in PTA. Most games demand a conflict roll when you do certain activities (“Climb a high mountain, difficulty 15”), while PTA instead asks, “Is this something interesting and meaningful to the story?”

In this way, a bunch of things that might be logistically important (“We spend 2 weeks crossing the desert”) but rather un-interesting as far as the story focus goes, gets skipped over. The time and the spotlight is instead spent on mostly things that matter to the group (“The question is not whether we get out alive, of course we do, the question is whether I can regain her trust…”).

3. The narration trading aspect also plays into this – success/failure is one metric, but who gets to describe how it goes down is another.

Because the reward system is based on good input, not success or failure in the fiction, the only real driving motivations in how you narrate something are a) what entertains everyone else and will get you fanmail, and b) where you yourself want the story to go (what entertains you). So what drives the results of a failure is not “what would really happen”, as much as “what way can (success/failure) FIT with this particular situation we’ve put together?”

PTA is very much a game that shows better questions result in better answers, and teaches you to be better at both.

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Violation: Rape in Games

October 16, 2012

Just found out about this book of essays on the issue of rape in games (videogames, tabletop rpgs, etc.):

Violation: Rape in Games

(Sidenote: I’m going to read this at some point, but that cover is fucking foul.)

Anyway, the general questions it posits, I pretty much put in the same category I do racism and other things that show up in games – that gaming is not a special medium different than other media in regards to how these things appear – they reflect the culture of the people who create the games and the people who play them, as much as books, tv, music, movies, comics, etc.

The only major difference is that while rape in media often is an act of aggression – whether that is portraying violence against a character as a way of showing punishment, a form of excitement, or devaluing them as a tool to push a plot point, rather than saying something meaningful, it’s not directed personally like fictional rape BETWEEN players. (I count GMs as players in this fashion)

And it comes down to the same two points that I often bring up in these discussions about problematic stuff in games:

1. How is this fun, and why did you think it would be fun to add to the game?

2. Did everyone know this was going to be part of game play or a potential topic in game?

Nearly always, people have blustery bullshit derails that never really address this, because the unfortunate real answer is almost always, “I didn’t think at all, it was fun for me, and even though I say I think it’s totally ok and cool, I made sure to SURPRISE people by throwing it in because I know if I talked to them about it ahead of time, they would have probably shut it down.”

I mean, what would you think if your friend opened your wallet, “borrowed” $100 without asking first and then told you after being called on it they thought it would be ok, even though they had plenty of opportunities to ask you and chose not to?

Or worse than that, “It was fun for me and you needed to be taught a lesson.”

In the end, people always show you what they’re about, regardless of what they say.

And of course, it’s not like this aggression is formed in a vacuum – who gets targeted for this behavior are the same people who are targeted for aggressive behavior in real life. And the rationales and reasoning is often the same as well.

Rape in games reflects the same issues of violence, kyriarchy and rape culture in society in general – as much as any other media form.

I look forward to reading this and seeing what others have found, though it’s not like “change society as a whole” is something anyone can come up with an easy answer for.

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Tenra Bansho Zero: Archetypes

October 12, 2012

Tenra Bansho Zero has this pretty interesting character generation system. You pick from a list of Archetypes – packages of skills, abilities and special equipment. Each Archetype has a Karma cost associated with it- you can take as few or as many as you want, as long as you don’t go above 108, with the game strongly recommending between 50-90 Karma.

The first neat thing is that an Archetype could be encompassing, like a character class – with multiple skills and powers, or it could be an aspect of your character’s past – “Hard Luck” for example. Each Archetype typically covers between 1-5 skills, and what keeps it functional is a) TBZ has a relatively short skill list, and b) it’s really easy to get many skills IN play, so you don’t have to have an obsessively detailed list – you cover the main ones and let the players buy the rest during play.

And it gives some stupid easy rules for making new Archetypes…

Underworld Connections

You either grew up around, or spent some time with the seedy part of society. If you weren’t directly working for a gang or organized crime cartel, you certainly spent enough time interacting with them to be part of the scene.

Karma: 35
Skills: Criminal Arts 3, Willpower 3, Pursuit 3, Notice 2, Evasion 2
Attribute Penalty 0
Primary Attribute: Knowledge
Equipment: None
Weapons: Knife +2
Special Abilities: None

Fate: Never Escape the Past
Description: Reliability. It made you friends and earned you enemies. And now, of course it’s the same reason they all want to pull you back in – they either need you or they need revenge upon you.

One of the People

You’ve either grown up with or spent time amongst the working class.

Karma: 10
Skills: Movement 3, Information 2, Persuasion 2
Attribute Penalty 0
Primary Attribute: Body
Equipment: Worn clothing
Weapons: Carrying Pole +1
Special Abilities: None

Fate: This village is your home, now
Description: You’ve laughed, cried, struggled and put in sweat with these people, and they need you and want you to stay. But your life of adventure- danger, duty, could destroy them all. Is this your home? Can you be as selfish and foolish to believe you can settle down and live a simple life?

Calligrapher

It’s not the brush, it’s not the words, it’ s the heart behind the words. You seek a form of deep truth and enlightenment through your art, and it is what makes you admired, if not fully understood by the world around you.

Karma: 30
Skills: Willpower 3, Etiquette 3, Notice 2, Forgery 2
Attribute Penalty 0
Primary Attribute: Spirit
Equipment: Professional brushes, ink, inkstone, scrolls and paper
Weapons: None
Special Abilities: None

Fate: Finding the mystery calligrapher
Description: Honestly, the piece you saw changed you – it awakened you to the truth of calligraphy, and you have to know the person who made it. What is their philosophy? What is their way?

Notes: You could have a sculptor, painter, tea master, or whatever high art would lead to a form of truth as an alternate character idea. Adjust equipment accordingly.

Traveling Merchant

Amidst the war and turmoil – trade still happens. You’ve been around and seen a lot, met a lot of people. Living between borders lets you see things from a perspective few have.

Karma: 30
Skills: Persuasion 3, Information 3, Etiquette 2, Notice 2
Attribute Penalty 0
Primary Attribute: Empathy
Equipment: Pack or cart of trade goods
Weapons: Walking staff +1
Special Abilities: None

Fate: Seeking Something Before Going Home
Description: You want to go home, but you can’t go back empty handed. Maybe you need a special medicine for a loved one, or perhaps you need a certain amount of money to help them out – no matter what, your travels revolve around getting this thing.

Disciple of the Sword

You’re young and untested, studying a sword art that you may never perfect… and most likely won’t live long enough TO perfect.

Karma: 20
Skills: Movement 3, Melee Weapons 2, Evasion 2, Etiquette 2, War Arts: Southern Seas One Blade Style 2
Attribute Penalty 0
Primary Attribute: Body
Equipment: None
Weapons: Katana +3
Special Abilities: None

Fate: What is the definition of a warrior?
Description: You’ve been trained in a specialized dojo, one which has focused on teaching you not just the way of the sword, but a philosophy as well. How do you reconcile the noble ideas of warriorship with the endless butchery of war? This doubt haunts your heart, and may leave you dead if you don’t solve it in time.

Notes: You can choose a different War Art if you prefer, as well as a different appropriate weapon (bow, spear, etc.)

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I’ll just leave this here

October 10, 2012

Gotta say, there’s something deeply messed up when there is a major chunk of genre dedicated towards escapism fantasy where a white isolationism/white supremacy is a core feature…

The limited and repetitious rationalizations haven’t changed, much, though nor the false bewilderment at the idea that hostile social spaces drive people away while claiming simply that the rest of the population as being incapable of imagination or intelligence to participate.

(Just found source author here)

Fantasy guy meme

Fantasy guy meme

Fantasy guy meme

Fantasy guy meme

Fantasy Guy meme

Fantasy guy meme

Fantasy guy meme

Fantasy guy meme

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Playing with good intent

October 2, 2012

About 2 or 3 times a week, I see various people online, asking “How do I deal with this play issue?” – when the issue is pretty much having a person, or multiple people playing with bad intent.

What do I mean “bad intent”? (I hear people crying about judgmental attitudes, etc.) Well, think of it this way – we’ve gathered to play a game in some sort of fashion. There’s probably spaces where you’re going to find edge rules of play, or things which are technically legal, but not in line with the point of play.

For example, competitive chess has a time limit for moves, so you don’t have someone simply walk away from the board and decide they’ll take their next turn 20 years later. While it’s “technically” legal to do this if you’re casually playing without a time limit, but we all understand that it’s basically saying “Fuck you! I’m not playing” rather than actually playing the game.

I’m very much for playing hard within the limits of the rules and the point of play – it’s stuff where you have players spending 10 minutes trying bullshit up a reason they should get an extra bonus die, etc. People often try to call these folks “rules lawyers” but they’re actually not- the people who are good with the rules usually don’t have to argue their case – they’re not always trying to get over. You play hard, you take your lumps when they come, and you either play better or hope for better luck next time.

You could say that these sorts of folks are griefing (such as people basically fighting for social dominance, which I’ve seen), that they’re trying to play a different game and pushing these edges to do it (also when they try to avoid engaging the rules), or that they’re acting out of a proactive abused gamer syndrome – they’re not pushing the boundaries of the rules – they’re pushing the boundaries of the people playing because they don’t trust them and need to know how to “work” the group in play (including the GM).

That said, none of the above are people actually there to PLAY the game with good intent.

Notice that if someone is confused about the rules, they go: “Hey can I get X?” “No, because Y reason”, “Oh. Ok.” which is very different than: “Hey can I get X?” “No, because Y reason”, “Well, what if Z? Huh? What if Y was different? What about this unrelated rule? Wait, wait, give me a minute to look through the book. Hold on, give me the other book….”

So the sorts of things people complain about in this regard aren’t a matter of lack of understanding, it’s a matter of a social behavior.

Clinton R. Nixon once said something along the lines of, “If everyone’s there to have fun, WHY would a player choose to fuck up the fun?”

When everyone understands what game you’re there to play, and wants to play it, you don’t have certain problems. When someone isn’t… well. There’s no rules that will fix people who aren’t there to play the game.

One of the most basic lessons, that came out of the Forge, often emphatically stated by Ron Edwards was, “People have to WANT to play THIS game.” as the baseline social standard to meet for any kind of game to work. And more than anyone’s words about their intent, how well they try to make the game work, vs. fight it, will show you more about what they really want – as much as the guy who gets up and walks away for 20 years in the middle of chess then says you lost when you put away the board.