Friday, 20 August 2010

Abney Park RPG

Whether you think steampunk is the coolest thing ever, or it's just what happens when goths discover brown, this is some interesting news for RPG as a medium. Abney Park is working with Cubicle 7 on an Abney Park RPG. The announcement has a mockup of a book cover for you to enjoy.

My first thought (and comment on the site) was that it would make for a great supplement to Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies, but that might not be true. I haven't finished reading S7S yet but the swashbuckling might not quite be the right fit for Abney Park. As long as the rules for the new system make stories which are different to S7S, it's a good choice.

More interesting than this, though, is the crossover between a band that occupies an alternate reality and an RPG. There have been musicians like this before. Gorillaz do it nicely. Queen did it with their Queen II album. David Bowie did it again and again. You could argue that Flight of the Conchords do it. I think this is an interesting foray by RPGs into another kind of intellectual property. Books, film and TV have been done, successfully and dismally. The choice of the fictional world of a band is not such a stretch.

And that's the new challenge for you budding designers. Make the RPG for Gorillaz, Queen, David Bowie or Flight of the Conchords.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

What Swords Do

In the world of gaming, most stories are action or adventure stories. Add some more story games like Kagematsu and the situation changes. Still, most RPGs pay attention to fighting rules and no matter how much we argue about it, most of these rules don't exist to present realism, they exist to prolong your character while you make him do something foolhardy.

I was reminded of this the other day when I saw this clip. Behold, a two-handed sword in demonstration (especially watch the boots at 2:55). Note that this clip deliberately shows off the lethality of the weapon.

Swords are terrifying things. In the games I run (supposing they have swords), I've forgotten this and I shouldn't. A single swing of a sword is the difference between life and death and I want to try a game where this is a significant element.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Roleplaying advice from Victor Wooten

It's not often that I get the opportunity to bring music and gaming together, so I'm going to relish this moment.


And here it is. I want you to watch this youtube clip of Mark Peric (friend of mine) and Victor Wooten (mentor and friend of Mark's) during a bass workshop. Mark's on the left and Victor's on the right. The sound quality isn't great, but that doesn't change a thing about their astonishing talent.

The RPG advice starts at around the 5:00 point. Skip through to it if you like, or listen through it. You won't be disappointed.

Victor has been Mark's hero for a number of years, and Mark helped organise the master class with Victor. And yet watch what Victor does. He identifies that Mark is a talent in his own right; he points out that his job as a bass player is to make the other musicians sound even better; and then he gives all the spotlight to Mark.

Now Victor has earned the right to show off. He's really that good. But he does better than that by working with Mark to create something bigger than either of them. He puts aside the individual goal for the sake of the audience and for the sake of Mark's participation in the performance. Victor's humility has turned a good performance into a great performance. These guys were making it up on the spot, performing for the audience, and enjoying the result for themselves. And when they inject humility into the activity, the end result is even better.

As gamers, we can learn from this. A gamer is a fusion of creator, performer and audience in much the same way as Victor in that clip. And here are the key points to learn from Victor Wooten.
1. Remember it's a group activity.
2. Step back from the spotlight and let other players take a solo.
3. Bring a crescendo to someone else's performance without taking it over. Add details to make them look good, rather than making you look good.
4. Enjoy the performance.

Sounds simple. And with Mark and Victor playing the background, it sounds good too.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Confessions of an Evil Hat Fanboy

On the weekend I bought a copy of Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies. It had been sitting on the shelf of my FLGS for a month, ever since they got in an order of some other indie games - including my copy of A Penny for My Thoughts. So I put it on my gaming shelf, in the indie section, and then paused at what was blatantly obvious from the spines.

I'm an Evil Hat Fanboy.

I don't know if someone has come up with a nickname for it (I shudder at the thought. Fan-group nicknames make me cringe: I'm looking at you, Duranees!) but it's increasingly true, with one very important and perhaps stunning exception.

I don't have the Dresden Files RPG, and I probably won't buy it.

It's not that the game is bad. It's a FATE game, and I really enjoy Spirit of the Century. In fact, Spirit is my most-requested game for Games On Demand. Based entirely on that, I expect Dresden to be a great game, with good design, good play, and good writing.

It's not that the game is expensive, especially with shipping to Australia. Like many gamers, I've bought game books that I've not used very much. The replacement dollar value of my library is embarrassing. Dresden would look great on the shelf and great inside, from what I hear about it in reviews.

It's just that I've never read any Dresden Files books. I bought a comic mini-series once and thought it was OK, but it didn't grab me enough to buy the novels and then the game. So I confess my sin against Evil Hat!

I, Andrew Smith, Evil Hat Fanboy, do not have the Dresden Files RPG and have no plans to buy it. Give me Penny, give me Swashbucklers, give me Spirit, and best of all give me Don't Rest Your Head, and I will play them as penance. May it rescue my gamer soul from purgatory.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Bits and Mortar

Today's excellent news is the announcement of Bits and Mortar.

From the announcement:
"The past several years have seen growth in consumer acceptance of PDFs and eBooks. With an eye on using this to drive customers to their friendly local game stores, a coalition of publishers have formed Bits and Mortar, a pro-retailer, pro-brick-and-mortar, pro-PDF, pro-eBook initiative."
I'm pleased to see an alliance forming around this policy. The idea is simple and the effects are great for the game-buying public. Up until this point it was only in the hands of individual publishers, but at the time I write this I see six publishers listed. The named object (policy, alliance, website, thing) becomes a rallying point, a point which is outside any of the individual participants and around which others can gather.

Best of all, this is a strategy to keep cash flowing through the friendly local game stores rather than letting it migrate online. Although I have no problem with online shopping, game books are different from novels in that they require other people in order to get the most from that product. The game store is a great place to meet those other people, so it's useful for the hobby overall that publishers support the development of networking within that community.

So yes, yes and yes. Congratulations to them all for this move. And you, dear reader, should tell your local game shop owner about it. Send them this link ( with a couple of very excited sentences about it, and then show your support in action by going to them to buy your next game.

Friday, 6 August 2010