Thursday, 31 July 2008

Don't Lose Your Mind

Last week I bought my pre-order of Don't Lose Your Mind. Having read the PDFs now, I'm genuinely excited by this. The book adds good content to the game as well as great gaming tips for playing characters and for running DRYH.

The other thing I liked about reading the PDF is that it prompted creativity for me as well. Text in the book spawned more ideas in my head. That's a good thing - a very good thing. I like it when a text stimulates my cerebral processes.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Rules Bandaids

I'm still working on the basic ruleset for Nobles. I keep getting good ideas to make it better, but then those good ideas present different problems. Nuts. It feels like I'm going to end up with a game of bandaids, rather than a well-constructed and intentional system.

Gah. Maybe this is just a case of designer's nerves.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Go Play Brisbane

I've started a separate site, using blogger, to help me manage the communication of Go Play Brisbane. Not surprisingly, it's called Go Play Brisbane.

So if you're one of my Brisbane indie readers, go subscribe to GPB immediately.


Monday, 21 July 2008

Hitting the Heavy Bag

I picked up an expression from listening to the Sons of Kryos episode 59: hitting the heavy bag. It's the concept that game masters need to engage in some training to ensure that they are honing their skills. A GM should be offering good games and good entertainment for the players, and the SoK guys launched a thread on this. Read the thread sometime to get lots of opinions on it.

Since the thread was launched (and now fizzled, as do all forum threads), I've encountered another element of good GM training that I want to add. For me, hitting the heavy bag in the next couple of months will include mastering
Don't Rest Your Head or Grey Ranks. After playing them at Gencon, I've come to the conclusion that these two games are the right challenge for me to improve my skills as a GM. I see that either of them gives me the opportunity to understand and practice collaborative scene framing which is centred around the goals of specific characters while still facilitating a story about that group of characters.

How about you? What do you do to hit the heavy bag? What books do you read, films do you watch, techniques that you test? Or, do you even try to become a better player/GM - maybe you're happy with the way you play now. Drop me a comment.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

The Stories of Games

In the Robin's Laws of Good Game Mastery seminar at Gencon, one of the audience posed a question, but with a preface that included the idea that telling stories is an ancient activity, having been done for millenia around the campfire. He then made the comparison to cinema, novels, television and even roleplaying games as contemporary variants on the campfire.

I like to suggest that this anonymous questioneer is not quite right with regard to roleplaying games. Cinema, novels and poems are all story telling media. A pre-written story is conveyed through one of these means to an audience which does not participate in the telling of that story. Nor do they participate in the making of that story.

The key phrase here is "story making." A roleplaying game, with several participants, is not merely story telling, it is story making. As a group the players make stories about a group of characters. Some games limit each player to a single character and delegate the rest to the GM. Other games leave it open for players to take on the roles of multiple characters. In either arrangement, the players are responsible for making the story, and not just telling it.

Having this knowledge on top of the table will help turn your dice-and-stats game into a story game.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Art for Nobles

I was speaking with a friend of mine the other day and I brought up Gencon. After a few "what's that?" type questions, I find myself with an artist for Nobles. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Mark Peric, bassist and graphic artist.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Where to play more indie games

Ever since the good response to the IGE at Gencon Oz, I've been thinking about where to host another indie game in a convention style atmosphere. Two ideas sound good to me. I can either run the event as a standalone event, just for indie games; or I can run a couple of indie games at someone else's convention.

From what little I know about the Brisbane gaming scene, it seems that there are a few places around that could facilitate this.

The Queensland Gamers Guild has gaming sessions every month, but from what I see of the schedule it's mostly for wargaming (e.g., Warhammer). Have I misread the QGG page?

Brisbane Independent Gamers seems like another option, but the game list seems to have a lot of miniature gaming.

Speak up, Brisbane indie gamers. Would you like an indie game there one day? Perhaps Spirit of the Century, or Space Rat?

Monday, 7 July 2008

An indie summary of Gencon Oz

The first Gencon Oz was, for indie games, a good experience. We had games from Australian designers being launched, we had seminars on indie game play and design, and we had full registrations for all tables of the Indie Games Explosion. Best of all, the organisers are enthusiastic about our contribution and are keen to give us more space for larger events in 2009.

And now for some details.

Seminars
There were two seminars for indie games across the four days. The first was on Thursday night, with a panel of Nathan Russell, Michael Wenman and Robin Laws (and I got to be MC for this illustrious group) and the topic was "Steal This Trick - The indie games you should play at least once". For an hour the panelists spoke on the topic and took questions from the audience.

The second one was in the last day of the con, and wasn't actually advertised in the programme, but we still managed to get people to come. It was intended to be a session on indie game design, primarily with the guys who were launching games, but we turned it into a Game Design Roundtable as was done at Dreamation. Two games were thrown on the table and dissected by the assembled group. Both of the designers set themselves goals to have ashcans ready in six months, in time for Melbourne's Arcanacon.

Indie Games Launched
Michael Wenman came up from Sydney to launch The Eighth Sea, his game about time-travelling pirates with a penchant for making money from temporal disturbances. He ran two or three sessions every day, and was fully booked (and over booked!) for each one. The pre-orders list grew quite well, I hear.

Nathan Russell decided to only run his game - Space Rat - through the IGE, and was handsomely rewarded. I sat in on an hour of one session and enjoyed it immensely. Due to a delay in printing from Lulu he didn't have any product to sell, but he handed out stacks of postcards and flyers. He generously left me with one of his few pre-release copies to add to my library. Thanks, Nathan!

Indie Games Explosion
According to the registration table, all sessions were fully booked and even though about 10-20% didn't turn up, we had gamer after gamer approaching us and ask about empty spaces at the table. We estimate that about half of them had never heard of any of the games, and were still keen to play. We also estimate that about two-thirds finished the games and asked, "Where can I buy this game?" Unfortunately, the only thing we could do was point them to the IPR online store. We hadn't really expected people to try and buy these games from us, but they were keen. I would have loved to point them towards one of the retailers, but none of them were carrying indie stock either.

In short, the indie gamer crowd had more demand than supply and the organisers noticed. I suspect that we left our mark partially through the registration database and partially through the periodic visits from Robin Laws, Peter Adkison and the Gencon staff. I need to give a big thank you to Scott Vandervalk, Nathan Russell and Michael Wenman for bringing content to the con. I also need to point out the great support from Peter Ball and the rest of the con organisers for squeezing a non-standard event into the programme.

And now... go plan the next one.

Editorial Addition
In my original post, I forgot to thank the folks who came to the round table. Thanks to Scott V, Louise, Lon, Michael (and his wife), Craig and Danica. We'll do it again next year.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Halftime at Gencon

So it's halfway through Gencon and I have to say that the con is exceeding my expectations in almost every way. The gaming has been great, but the best thing has been the response to the Indie Games Explosion. When internet pre-registrations closed (the Monday morning before the con) we had 47 places left from our 90 places available. At that point I thought we would have a lot of flexibility, and perhaps half-full sessions that we could use to run games that were more focused on a smaller number of characters. The reality, after just one day, is that we have had every table of every session full. Even overflowing at least once. I couldn't have expected it. Over and above this, I heard yesterday that all our sessions for today (Saturday) are full already, and that we might be offering one final session on Sunday. It's not in the programme right now, but at this stage anything seems possible.

This is largely due to the great work by Peter Ball. He looks tired, but he is still happy and works hard to make it all happen. I'm glad he's involved in this because he's supportive, helpful and friendly. Great work, Peter.

To close, I'm going to give a very quick summary of what I've been up to so far.

Thursday
- Met Nathan Russell in person for the first time. And from that point, I met a bunch of people from the Newcastle gaming scene, and frequenters of Imbercorvus.
- Bought some Campaign Coins. Wow. These things are great. They have good heft and are already in use for my Don't Rest Your Head games.
- Played a demo of Heroclix, and was soundly beaten by my friend Mat. 3-0. Ack! He's a great tactical player who didn't even use one of his minis.
- Played a game (or part of a game) of Cleopatra. This looks like an interesting strategy game and it has some great supporting plasticware for game pieces.
- Hosted (was MC of...) the Steal This Trick seminar, with Robin Laws, Nathan Russell and Michael Wenman. This was a great seminar, with about 30-40 people.
- Had dinner with Robin Laws. He's a great guy with interesting things to say on a wide range of topics. My only regret was the "Vietnamese" restaurant we chose wasn't all that Vietnamese. Ah well.

Friday
- First session of the IGE: I played Spirit of the Century with a great group. That adds 6 to my count of new people to game with. Some of these guys had played SOTC before, and most were from Brisbane. If I can find my notes from the game, I'll add their names.
- Second session of the IGE: 80% of the group demanded Don't Rest Your Head. So that's what we played. I don't feel that it was my best game, but the last hour of game play was pretty good, and I especially like the epilogues that the players created to close off the session. Fantastic.
- Played Grey Ranks with Peter Adkison, Robin Laws and Luke (no surname, just like Prince and Madonna). This was shakey at first, but after the first round of learning, the second and third rounds were fantastic. I hadn't played it before, but now I want to play it again. I also have to say that Robin is a great gamer, showing great rhythm between silence and speaking, between plot development and plot resolution. I learnt a lot. Thanks Robin!

And now... time to embrace Saturday at Gencon. See you there.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Where to find me at Gencon

So, if you're looking for me at Gencon, this is my schedule so far.

Thursday
6pm Steal This Trick. I'm the MC for this seminar, featuring Michael Wenman, Nathan Russell and Robin D. Laws.

Friday
10am Indie Games Explosion
2pm Indie Games Explosion
6pm Indie Games Explosion

Saturday
10am Indie Games Explosion
2pm Indie Games Explosion
6pm Indie Games Explosion

Sunday
9am Robin's Laws of Gamemastery
4pm An untitled seminar on game development


And that's it! I've left some good space in there to wander the floor and chat with passersby, but mostly it's about the games. Let's roll them bones.