Friday, 30 July 2010

From the Ashes of GenConOz 2010

Australian gamers were dealt a terrible blow a fortnight ago when Ian Houlihan regretfully announced the cancellation of GenConOz 2010. This was widely regarded as a Very Sad Thing.

Several smaller groups started working on their own activities to fill the void, and after a week started talking to each other about working together. And that's how it is that from September 24-26 in Brisbane Australia there will be Uprising. If we can't have the Best Four Days of Australian Gaming, we'll cut it down to three instead.

Alongside Warmachine, L5R and Magic there will be seminars on GMing, seminars on game design and workshops on game design, featuring some of Australia's finest freelancers and indie game designers.

Watch for updates at The Stockade.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Siege game rules done

I think my game rules for Siege are done. It works. It plays. People can engage with it.

I'm still a little worried about the Hostage character. What happens if they escape so successfully that they leave the game? Does the game stop being fun for them? I also want to know what happens if a Hostage character takes actions to wear down the resolve of the Captor, or if they force the relationship with the Captor in a non-adversarial direction.

My next step is to package up the game rules into a PDF for others to try. It won't be pretty, but it'll be playable. Well, as long as I explain the rules in a clear and interesting way. No problem, right?

Monday, 26 July 2010

Kuang Hong Illustrations

My go-to game is Don't Rest Your Head. I'll run it anytime. It's satisfying to me in every way. So when I saw these illustrations from Kuang Hong, my heart skipped a mad beat. It's part of a toy series that he's working on. Can't wait to see what's next.


A dream about jealousy by *noah-kh on deviantART

His own caption is, "I'm a little toy in a big world,i love my mistress so much,and i just can't bear other toys share the love with me.One day i have a sweet dream,OMG, my dearest mistress killed all the other toys in the room,haha'."

Hell yes.


The call by *noah-kh on deviantART


The dinner by *noah-kh on deviantART

Don't. Rest. Your. Head.

The Beast of Limfjord

So apparently I ran a session of The Beast of Limfjord. That much is true. And here are some other true things about the experience.

I ran it with an hilarious and enthusiastic group. Peter Blake played Signy, Timothy Ferguson played Hrofgar (and how! It was a joy to behold), and Fridrik Bjarnason played Erlend. They were keen to try it out and gave a good effort to break it. This was, as I have failed to mention, a playtest. Breakage was possible. Perhaps I should have mentioned the "you break it, you bought it" policy.

So here are some true things that didn't go well.
I didn't make the challenges challenging enough, or give enough challenges. TBOL is all about the challenges. If you run this game, hand them out like they expire tomorrow.
Players like to defeat things in a single roll. This game has options to make failure interesting by adding complexity without actually stopping the heroes. Show this a few times and the urge to succeed in a single roll should fade.
The players made a good attempt to break the rules about Edges, by stacking them and stacking them. It felt like a D&D game, with bonuses coming from everywhere. This was a specific topic for the playtest, so I imagine that Nathan will take the feedback (more detailed in an email) and tweak it.
Hrofgar is mighty. With Iron Hand, Curmudgeon and Glorious Death, he can be quite an epic hero. GMs beware.

And here are some true things that that worked well
It's epic. So epic. Play is larger than life, perhaps a little cartoony, but not too much. I can see how it could be tragedy too.
Easy dice rules. No difficulty to convey them or let them weave into play. They weren't distracting either, so the story flowed nicely.
Rumours are great source materials for the adventure. The nature of rumours in a story about myth is evocative. No one really knows facts about the beast, just legends. Great stuff.
Legends are great, I think. Even though I've not played D&D 4e, they seem to occupy the same function as D&D's Daily Powers, without explicitly saying so.

Overall, I had fun running it but I wish that I'd done a better job of it. It was epic and entertaining as it was, but I want to run it again and see if I can redline it. You should keep your eye on this game. Playtest it now.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Nature abhors a vacuum

Let's not muck about here. GenConOz is gone for 2010 and that leaves a little void. So it's time for others to step up and do something with that opportunity.

I can't say much more than that for now, except that if you were planning to be in Brisbane for GenConOz, you should keep your tickets and accommodation bookings. Oh yes, you should definitely keep them.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Go Play Brisbane, Concluding Thoughts

Go Play Brisbane is finished again. Without giving a blow-by-blow account of the day (there's a Story Games thread for that anyway) I want to make some quick remarks.

This was the fourth GPB mini-con, and for four cons in a row there were new people. And for four cons in a row there were regulars. I'm so pleased that (as Aik wrote on Story Games) there's a Brisbane indie community. That's the reason a GPB was created in the first place. Win. Win. Win. That community is the cradle of creation for indie games. I expect that there will be more and more games come from Australia and from Brisbane because of this little community.

And as if to support that claim, consider these two statistics: 60% of the games played on Saturday were Australian-designed games in development; and more than a third of the people who attended are working on their own games or freelance work.

It's a privilege to be involved with GPB. I'm glad to be part of it. All signs point to more GPB in 2011 and beyond. It's too much fun (and too rewarding) to put down.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Happy Parole, Joker!

My beautiful copy of Happy Birthday, Robot! arrived last week. As an artifact, it's a treasure for my game shelf. I'm glad to have a PDF as well, to preserve the book. I mentioned before that it was Go Play Brisbane last Saturday and I might have been able to run it.

I was in luck's way and we could run it. But I wanted to change the key phrase, so we played Happy Parole, Joker! And this is the story we wrote.

Happy Parole, Joker!
Joker walks the streets, hunting for a laugh, but also for work.
Lowlifes flee in fear, but don't laugh.
Joker drives rapidly through a drive-through downtown, avoiding
Joker thought about impending mayhem, but thoughts were enough for him.
Joker found a petrol can, picked it up and cackled.
Joker found an oil rag and made it into a wick.
Joker danced merrily and chuckled and ignited twenty-one trashcans but Batman was watching.
The flames rose higher, threatening innocent children.
Joker danced away, gleefully singing and kicking puppies into the sewer.
Batman swooped down on Joker and tackled him, posing in his cape.
Joker mocked his foe, dropped his trousers, waved his rear at Batman.
"Happy parole, Joker," said Batman, looming from shadows as he punched him down, but Joker kept laughing.
Batman was infuriated and scowled as Joker broke free.
Joker ran down the shopping mall, pull down racks of goods and became trapped under Batman's electrified net.
Robin punched him repeatedly as they bundled him into the Batmobile's boot.
"Can we stop at McDonald's drivethrough on the way to Arkham, Batman?" said Robin.
Batman said nothing, his eyes toward Arkham.
In the boot Joker smiled, knowing his Ronald McDonald clones would soon awaken.

It was fun, for sure, and there were some aspects of our game which I want to tell you about.

We had four players. So of course the story was a bit longer than those in the book. Unfortunately, each person had nothing to do every fourth turn. If I was to change it, I would make that person the scribe. Not only would it give them something to do, but it would avoid the next feature as well.

When each person was adding words, they did it in silence, busily counting words on their fingers (or tapping on dice and coins). This is different to other story games experiences in which the game is near-constant verbal narration. So to fill in the silence, the other players started other conversations. Good? Bad? No, just distracting.

We didn't share coins early enough. You can see this early on in the short and simple sentences, and later on in the longer and complex sentences. When you play HBR, share coins early and widely. You'll get a shorter story, but the early sentences won't feel as clumsy as ours.

We let the innocent children burn. When the story was finished, I read it out and only when I got to, "The flames rose higher, threatening innocent children" did I realise that none of us had put out the fire. You have to pay attention to earlier sentences, and that's another reason why adding words in silence is bad. Don't let the children burn because you want Batman to catch Joker.

Just based on that single play session, I think this is a game worth playing and replaying, especially with other settings. There's a bit of fun to be had thinking of those other settings too, but I'll leave that to you.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Gen Con Gone

Just in case you read this blog more than you pay attention to the Gen Con Oz sites (including facebook and twitter), you would have missed the announcement that Gen Con Oz 2010 has been cancelled. Read the announcement here.

This is a sad announcement, but one laden with the realities of commercial considerations. A convention needs to break even or make money, otherwise it won't be back. And for gaming, this is a real concern. I heard Fred Hicks remark that indie game publishing is "how to make dozens of dollars the hard way" and he's right. Gaming is not mainstream in Australia, so it doesn't attract cash like other activities. Console gaming is big, but Gen Con isn't only about that. Pen and paper games are even less popular, and indie games? Well now.

But is that the end of gaming conventions in Australia? Not by a long shot. Even though most tabletop gaming in Australia is Warhammer and other miniatures gaming, just having Gen Con around was a shot in the arm for roleplaying. It introduced me to other indie gamers in Australia; people I consider friends, and people who continue to write and play new and innovative games.

I, for one, will continue to run Go Play Brisbane events in the medium term future, as well as continue to be involved in the Stockade project. And I'm looking forward to seeing Gen Con Oz return sometime soon (2011 would be nice!). Our hobby needs conventions if it is to continue as a viable commercial endeavour, or even as a social endeavour. We need to continue to meet together, to cross-pollenate our ideas between gaming groups so that we can fend off stagnation. This has created a void in the 2010 gaming calendar, but I feel confident that there will be other opportunities arise.

Watch this space.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Go Play Brisbane

Oh yeah. It's on in two days. I'm sorely tempted to change my game offering to include Happy Birthday Robot but that's being fickle.

Still, I want to play HBR sometime soon. I'll be in Melbourne next week. Maybe I can find some gamers there who want to try it.

And who want to convert it to Happy Parole, Joker!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

ZedGames tonight

So I'm off to the 4ZzZ studio tonight for Zedgames. I'll be tweeting my way through the evening. Check for #zgau to catch tweets from me, the hosts and the listeners too.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

ZedGames

Our friends over at ZedGames are having their first birthday bash - and they've invited me along. Tune in and check it out.