Archive for January, 2013

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Last Stand

January 14, 2013

Last Stand

So first off, I’m going to have to go support this game on the basis of – amazing POC artwork that’s not problematic.

The creator talks about pushback from folks about that cover.

I actually got a lot of flak for it though, during the Kickstarter and prepping for release. A number of colleagues hinted that I should, uh, worry more about my demographic and think about what they would actually like to see on a cover. A number of them recommended something less “exotic” or advised that I shouldn’t “tank sales just to make a point”. I got told more than a few times that it would never get on retail shelves unless I went with a more conventional central figure. (Dragon’s Lair in San Antonio and Austin will be stocking the book. I even did an in-store demo at the Austin location.) Some people didn’t even hide behind vague advice, I got told point blank to change the protagonist or the book would never sell since nobody can identify with her. Which was, uh.
It was a depressing series of experiences all around, but all of the fans I’ve talked to love the cover so that’s more important really.

It really says everything that people have an easier time imagining a world with giant bugs than imagining WOC as heroes…

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“Good Gamers” as defined by bad games

January 11, 2013

I’ve been having some good conversations with Quinn Murphy recently, and he’s given me a term that works very well for an issue I’ve talked about a lot, though never put a title to – “Structure”. I’ve talked about how many games give you small scale rules without the overarching structure to tie it together – and, well, structure is probably the best damn word for it. (Talking about organized human interactions in specialized ways is difficult – the words should fit the concept, but because you’re talking in a specialized way, there’s always the pitfall of it “sounding” like one thing when you specifically mean another – see the never ending struggle of Narrativism to describe a style of play…)

What I think is striking me as the shift over the last 10 years in terms of modern game design is the recognition that a longstanding problem of traditional games has been leaving structure out while demanding the play group develop, communicate, and coordinate it on their own and explicitly telling people this quality is what makes the difference between a “good gamer” and a “bad gamer”.

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Sorcerer Kickstarter

January 6, 2013

The Sorcerer RPG is up on kickstarter – you can get the PDF game and 3 supplements are there for $25.

The game is solid and the supplements are great – a lot of advice that is useful across a lot of games, especially if you’ve come from traditional rpg background. The supplements break down a lot of ways to improvise during play as a GM, allowing you do get great sessions with minimal prep.

Worth checking out!

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The Drifter’s Escape – in play

January 5, 2013

I finally got around to not just watching folks play the Drifter’s Escape, but playing it. We were all a bit tired by the time we got to playing, and I was a bit doubtful about whether our energy levels would go well with it, but it was a lot of fun.

One of the things I saw upon reading was that the game is designed to put you in a bind: if you’re The Drifter, you basically are at the whim of GM Fiat (from one of the two GMs – either The Devil or The Man) unless you Make a Deal. When you make a Deal, both the GMs draw a 5 card hand and offer to give you their hand if you do a specific thing they request – and neither one is obligated to tell the truth about the quality of their hand. If the hand you take beats the other GM’s hand, then you get what you want regardless of the GM Fiat.

The thing I didn’t realize was that the dynamic in play is exactly that of an abuser – when you’re one of the GMs, when you control the scene you’re basically causing problems and fucking up the Drifter’s life and then you immediately turn around and offer them “help” at a cost.

What makes this not completely fucked up as a play experience is that these roles (as the Devil or the Man) are clearly assigned, you KNOW that this is the players’ roles and it changes the situation by drawing the boundaries of what is going on. In speaking with the designer, Ben Lehman, he pointed out that one of the things the game teaches is survival skills in an abusive situation – “Get what you need and get out. Sometimes helping others is what you need, but don’t stick around and let other people’s problems become your own” – which was a pretty accurate assessment of what happened in play.

The second thing which came out while playing the game is the Drifter holds three options which are pretty powerful in play.

1. The ability to ditch a Deal if the terms offered are too weak/terrible.
2. The ability to decide when it’s time to leave town the situation altogether.
3. The ability to Redeem any NPC – to spend a token and right then and there, regardless of how fucked up they were before, they are NOW a good person, and the person playing that character MUST try to have that character do the thing which the player considers the morally right thing.

In our game, everything changed when an extremist survivalist militia type just shot a corrupt sheriff to death and was in a standoff with his friend the meth dealer, the Drifter and her friend – the Drifter player spent a token and immediately Redeemed the survivalist which shocked the whole damn table and ended the standoff.

The Drifter’s Escape manages to paint the world with a brutal cynicism and at the same time, surprise you utterly at the potential for changing your views on characters (or really people).