Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Second Generation Gamer

Courtesy of Narrative Control and Theory from the Closet, I've discovered something about myself. Sean spoke about someone he'd gamed with as being a second generation gamer - the gamer child of a gamer parent. More of this happens with each passing year, as the generations who grew up with original D&D become parents and pass on the hobby to their kids.

Now, I've never thought of myself as a second generation gamer because I picked up the hobby from my older brother and he picked it up from his school friends. Put like that, it sounds like a virus, but that's just how it appeared in my life.

Or so I thought. The notion of a second generation gamer made me think of my father, the retired major, and then the penny dropped. It was another military man who had created Braunstein as a hobby offshoot from genuine military training exercises - wargames. And now let me tell you a little about my father.

He joined the British Territorial Army as a young man and served with them until he migrated to Australia, whereupon he immediately enlisted in the Australian Citizen Military Forces (later, the Australian Army Reserves). He continued in the service until forced retirement, and then spent an additional few years as an officer supervising the Australian Army Cadets. All told, that's fifty years in the civilian military forces. During his time in the Australian Reserves, he spent many years training officers, with specialisations in military history and wargames. He would set up the situation for the trainees, including terrain and mission objectives, and then provide them with responses to the actions that they took. Sometimes he would take a non-referee role and take control of the enemy forces, commanding them from a separate war room, set up in another tent or room of the barracks.

In gaming parlance, my father was a GM. Suddenly, all those years of making plastic models of battleships, WWII aircraft and miniature armies with him fall into sharp relief. When I look at him through gamer lenses, he's not only a GM, he's a support GM who looks after NPCs, he's a miniatures gamer, and leans quite heavily on the side of realism in his preferred rules[1].

I've always known this about Dad, and always thought his military interest sparked something in me too, but I've never appropriated the tag of "gamer" to describe him. When I do, it makes me a second generation gamer - a gamer who is now on a mission to find a game to play with his father.

1. Indulge me as I tell another story to support this. An area of special interest for him was the American civil war. He had studied it and used it in officer training, even down to the contour maps of the battlefields. About a decade ago, he made his first visit to Gettysburg and from his memory of the contour maps found General Lee's command post, pointed to another point short distance away, and remarked, "You know, if he'd stood over there, he would have won this."

Monday, 25 October 2010

First Skype Game

I played my first game over Skype the other day. Seemed to work well, and brings trust to the table like never before.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Free Nobles for Everyone

Now that I've finally caught up with the Blogger Pages, I've decided to put the rules for Nobles up on the web. It's free, free, free!

For those who came in late, Nobles is a card game about civil war. I made some posts about it while I put it together, but I haven't touched the rules since just before Gencon Oz 2009. I hope you can find the time to play and enjoy it.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Social Contract Theory

I keep hearing, from various podcasts and so forth, about the "social contract" at the game table. It's unfortunate that it's such a common comment, because it's actually a poor model for the activity of playing games. The good news is that I'm not going to bore you with my reasons. It's enough to say that it's a bad choice and that I wish it would go away from talk about playing games.

For further reading, please see the relevant article at the SEP.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Relationship Maps

I'm going to quote Steve D here, because this remark sums up the rest of the post.
Lots of games tell you to create a relationship map, but Smallville tells you how to do it.
So very true. I played Smallville at Uprising last weekend, and the very next day I ran a game of Don't Rest Your Head. I usually try to scribble my own kind of relationship map when people are crafting characters in DRYH but it's never quite been the most useful diagram. I could glean bits and pieces from it but not quite enough. When I used the Smallville conventions for relationship maps, my DRYH game had a shot in the arm. Things were much clearer for me.
And now I see on Story Games a short thread about the very same thing. The technique is trivial and easy to learn. If you're not already doing something like this, it's worth your time to investigate and learn it. I think your game will be better because of it.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Now blind playtesting for Siege

At Uprising I was reminded that I ought to do some blind playtesting for Siege. It's true. I've been slack about it because I wasn't confident that it was ready to share around. But now I'm ready to share it and find out how it plays in the hands of others.

So if you're interested, download the playtest guideline and then organise a game of Siege. Let me know how it goes.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Sagefight as Madness Talent

This is my tongue-in-cheek mashup of Don't Rest Your Head and Sagefight. Enjoy, or even critique.

It began as a fun pasttime with friends. "Hai! Hai! Hai!" Each beat an opportunity to vanquish your opponent. Each pause the intersection of instinct and intent. And then, the strike! Touch their palm and they simply walk away.

But you played the game every day in your mind. As you walked down the street you could hear the beats of the movement all around you. The train. The joggers. The stock market. And now, even the universe itself has opened up its beat to you. That constant driving rhythm, like a drum in your mind, synchronising everything that exists like some great clockwork machine.

What can I do?
(1-2 dice) Synchronise yourself into the rhythm of machines and computers around you, able to see their patterns and predict their movement. Your chaos is one step ahead of their order. Not only do you know the machine, but you know the right place to tap and make the machine simply spin down to a quiet halt.

(3-4 dice) The ebb and flow of biological systems, as complex as they are, is as machine to you. From heartbeats to cell division, the interplay of these finely-tuned systems spins and loops according to fundamental chemical interactions, and you can dance to that beat. A double-step here and there and you can switch that bio-machine around. Stop a man's heartbeat or accelerate his cell division. Interrupt cancerous growths in their onslaught. Predict the flow of electrons throughout the neurons in her brain, and stay one step ahead.

(5-6 dice) Everything is part of the cosmic machine now. God wound up the spring and let all those untold trillions of wheels turn, and you can see them turning together. With the right tap you can bump the moon off its orbit, see the change in the stock market before it happens, or reach into a man's soul and tap so that he simply walks away from life itself. And no matter how far away you are when you do it, it's enough to disturb Officer Tock from his duties.

How does it break me?
Fight - Tap, tap, tap everything. Too many things are happening around you and the sounds of all those systems is like a thousand drummers playing a thousand different beats. You've got to make them stop, and you slide into a well-practised kata that makes anything near you stop and run.

Flight - A little error of judgment and the world has tapped you as adroitly as you normally tap it. The frenzy and flurry come to an abrupt stop, and quite calmly - perhaps mindlessly - you turn and walk away, far away.

How do I change?
Your sense of the spontaneous is slowly eroded by the relentless ticking. Everything is now a matter of watching for the pattern and then reaching into it to make it simply give up. The constant synchronisation of your body with the world around you has made your movements less and less fluid. Your movement becomes caught in the rhythm of Sagefight.

What am I becoming?
You erode the things around you by their capitulation, depriving them of their resolve and persistence. With no one around you to rage against the dying of the light, your own will to persevere collapses as well and as it falters, you can no longer tolerate determination or purpose in anything else. The feedback loop drains you of your self-discipline, and it is replaced by the instinctive drive to expose the fragility and futility of striving. You have become Damn Soulless.