Thursday, 15 December 2011

Space Rat Instant Character Generator

Space RatAre you about to play a game of Space Rat but have no idea for a character? Then I have the answer for you. Run a google image search for "sexy halloween costume" and you'll have all the inspiration you need.


You might also get distracted, so focus.

Focus! Jack Cosmos wants your attention.

Although, he's just as distracted by that search result as you are.

Monday, 12 December 2011

the puppies, they are dead

it feels like a rite of passage, the gamer's hajj. "you must play kill puppies for satan at least once in your life." it was a bit of a joke, just to see if i'd run it, and i did.

it's a funny little game, with some clever ideas shamelessly stolen from other games (it says so in the text). as we played we made comparisons to other games and genres. we definitely took the game in the direction of drug addled reprobates and fiasco style incompetence. a kpfs fiasco playset might be hilarious.

as the gm, i had the usual struggles to get the characters moving along. providing npcs who hate them isn't bad, but that's never the same as when the players have their own goals. poison'd has ambitions that fill this role nicely. kpfs seems like the ancestor to poison'd in a few ways. the characters are horrible and deal with devils, spirits and gods, they sin and sin and this keeps satan happy, and so on. the addition of ambitions is a good move from parody game to playable game or multi-session game.

but really, there's just one goal here: kill puppies for satan. he rewards by making them powerful. when the action slows down, the characters need to kill cute animals. deliberately. with absolute antipathy. and in doing so, they make enemies. more enemies just forces the characters to become more powerful, so they need to kill more puppies. if the players just treat puppy killing as a fun thing to do on a lazy afternoon, the game has more than enough momentum.

the listlessness of the game is its chaotic core. there's no larger goal here, just the immediacy of killing puppies and the promise of power for doing that. this is a contender for best nietzschean game ever. play it at least once.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Episode 9 of Unlit Match

Some more play from our Burning Wheel game. We only made it to Episode 13, so I hope you can sense a crescendo in the story.

On his journey back to Foxglen, Bram met a farmer called Sigbert who he uncovered to be a cultist. Sigbert has offered the powers of the cult to help determine the origin and nature of the mark on Bram's forehead. Bram remembers nothing about it, except flashes of memories about a trial and searing pain. He and Sigbert arrive in the village the day before Darwin is due to marry his second wife Clare.

Sophie has returned to Foxglen in the middle of scandal and gossip. Rumours are flying that Bram has taken her as a lover as well as a disciple. Sophie has an argument with another lady of the village, Paltis* and loses the argument, forced to admit that she craves her independence from Darwin. He's crushed by the revelation and Sophie leaves the argument and the house.

Bram finds Sophie and shows her the brand* on his forehead. She rushes him to the temple where Fier the Priestess recoils in horror at the sight. She brings Elric the High Priest and they discuss earnestly how to save Bram from the curse. Sophie decides to have Bram blessed in order to break the curse and arranges for it to happen before the wedding.

While they wait, Bram goes to visit the cultists, Sigbert and Simon, and takes a walk to the woods with them. They take him to meet the cult leader, Unwin. Bram and Unwin are half-brothers and haven't seen each other in years. After a brief brotherly reunion, Unwin begins to prepare a ritual to uncover the secrets of the brand.

Sophie has gone home and has another argument with Darwin about Bram. Darwin is angry that Bram has displeased the gods and will bring their judgement on Foxglen.

Meanwhile, the ritual has prepared a potion for Bram to drink. He tips the foul steaming brew into his mouth and fades into a world of shifting shadows and savage spirits.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Siege is now available

Two years after I announced that I was going to do it, Siege is finally available to you. You can get it as a free PDF download, or if you'd like a snazzy printed booklet you can buy one through Lulu. Details are on the Siege page.

I was going to tell a story about those two years, but really, that's guff for another time. Buy me a tea and I'll tell you about it.

Instead, you should get your copy and play it. Then tell me about it.

Siege cover art

Oh my. It's the front cover art for Siege.


That worked out better than I'd hoped. Now, to make it print like it looks on the screen.

Week of Pain Relief

The weekend of pain went OK, but not brilliantly. I hit a snag when it came to art. This is my first game, though, and it's really supposed to be about the game rather than the document.

I want a pretty document, for sure, but not for this edition of this game. Either I learn it, or I pay someone to do it. That'll be a production decision for another game.

Speaking of which, I have two in my notebook for when Siege is done.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Weekend of Pain

To be honest, it won't actually be painful. It will be, however, the final push to get Siege out the door. My plan is to have the last tweaks tweaked (they're mostly grammatical and stylistic) and a PDF created for upload to Lulu.

I'm going to make it available as print-on-demand, just in case someone wants a neat little booklet. I like the booklet format. For me, I want to convey a simple game that can fit snugly in a bag without causing spinal problems for gamers. Some of my favourite games are booklets, or would make sense as booklets.

And also, I have no skilz with graphics or layout, so I'm not going to betray my game with a woeful attempt at sexy packaging. One default Lulu-wizard cover for me.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

New facebook group for Australian game designers

With the recent closure of The Stockade, I see another group has appeared to fill that niche. If you're on facebook, go see Australian Game Designers.

This is good news, and not just because there is something rather than nothing, but also because it has people involved that I've never encountered before. That can only be a good thing for the Australian game design scene.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Session 8

Bram awakens in the refuse pits outside Liguelen to find himself scorned and feared by the people of the town. Refused entry into Liguelen because he is "Ithnel's Cursed" he staggers his way back towards Foxglen. His travel is marked by a pause at a creek where he bathes and sees, for the first time, the curse of Ithnel branded into his forehead. Desperately in need of sustenance and care, he eventually finds refuge with some peasant farmers. After some small talk and banter, Bram uncovers that the peasant and his wife are cultists of the nameless Dark Lord. They examine the mark on his forehead and offer to take him to their powerful priest, hidden in the nearby village of Foxglen.

Sophie has safely returned to the village and makes two key decisions. First, she drives her workers to continue making goods for the upcoming war, despite the cashflow problems that this causes. Second, she diverts her faith away from Bram as the true prophet and towards Cambruach himself. Intent on becoming a disciple of the gods of Foxglen, she presses closer with High Priest Elric and Priestess Fier. Sophie is also a hostess of mixed results as she and Darwin begin the rituals of welcoming the new wife into the family. Claire, niece of the village chief, is to be married to Darwin as his second wife within a week.

Dark lords and gods of nature are set to be honoured in Foxglen at the same time. Religious fervour is set to reach new heights as these deities and their followers embark on faithful endeavours of worship.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Session 6 to 7

This version of the story has a little overlap with my previous post, so bear with me. My memory about it is a little hazy and is reconstructed from Peter's notes. As always, Peter and David can fill in some blanks that I left out.

Sophie had discovered terrible conspiracy and unfaithfulness among the leaders of Liguelen scant hours before the pilgrimage was due to leave. Upon returning to the caravan to tell the Prophet Bram, she learned that he had not been seen for several hours. A search of the city failed to find him and served instead to spread rumours about his disappearance.

Disillusioned but still hopeful, Sophie returned with her husband to Foxglen, stopping often to ask others if they'd seen Bram. When back in Foxglen, the stark reminders of life - running the leatherwork business and a new wife coming to the family - collided with her religious zeal. Her contemplations at the temple led her towards a vital decision, a decision she must now make.

And what of Bram? After retiring to his meditations and then disappearing? What has become of him? He's fled; he's defrauded the gullible; he's been taken by the gods; he's been abducted by the prince... the rumours are many and wild, and they're out there. And somewhere, so is Bram.

Sessions 4 to 6

Our protagonists made their way to the large city of Liguelen, along with Sophie's husband (Darwin) and his trade caravan. Bram looked to gain legitimacy from the priests here, in the seat of power. Sophie wanted to help sell her new military-style leathergoods to the generals, along with Darwin's other commodities. What they found was trouble and complication.

Bram's encounter with the local authorities, religious and political, was less than helpful. His brash demeanour and fervent devotion to building unity and faithfulness led him into arguments with the generals and priests. One general in particular was Sohpie's brother-in-law, married to Sophie's sister Gloriana. Gloriana was, we learned, the favourite child who was even more elegant and graceful than Sophie. She was married into nobility (the general) to help further the family name. This time around, it didn't help matters much that she invited Darwin, Sophie and Bram to stay with her without her husband's knowledge.

The tension in the house is palpable. Darwin and the general are engaged in trade talks in the palace while Bram and Sophie are pursuing the holy task given by Cambruach. After failing to contact Ithnel in the local temples, they decide to make pilgrimage to him in the nearby mountains. The day of the pilgrimage, however, Bram goes missing. Sophie searches the city for him and hears all kinds of rumours: Bram has been taken by the gods, has fled with people's money, has been imprisoned by the prince... Whatever's happened to him, the pilgrimage is cancelled. Sophie continues to search for him at the temple and discovers, to her astonishment, that the priests and sorcerers are researching all kinds of magic - magic that does not align with how people are born, magic that is dark and forbidden - in order to win the coming war. The holy men and wizards believe they are obedient to Ithnel's divine command to be industrious, learning about new magics and creating weapons of war from that new knowledge. Sophie talks with a young curate, learning that Ithnel is quite hostile to some of the schools of magic being used in this research. The two of them pray for forgiveness and receive a sign from the heavens, a powerful wind that swirls around the temple.

There is no sign of Bram, the city is unfaithful even to their own god, and Darwin's business has concluded. Sophie has had some good times with her sister, punctuated by tension over her religious devotion to Cambruach and being Bram's disciple. Now it is time to leave. Darwin has no time to wait for Bram, and the caravan sets off, leaving Bram to his uncertain fate.

Editorial: I hope Peter and David will embellish this in the comments with their own notes.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Neo-scrabble

In the middle of a game of Words With Friends, I looked at some of the two-letter words that the in-game dictionary allows and realised that I don't know what they all mean. It's just a two-letter word to make up some points. So I made up a Scrabble variant.
  1. Use and receive letter tiles in the same way as normal Scrabble, and generate scores the same as in normal Scrabble.
  2. When you play a word, it must be a completely new word that doesn't exist in English (or the language of your choice). To complete the neologism, you must write in secret the definition of that word and then announce to the table a sentence with the word in it, without giving away the definition. 
  3. Everyone else at the table writes in secret a single guess as to the meaning of the word, announced only when everyone has written their guess. Anyone who correctly guesses the meaning of your new word also gets the points for the word. For each other player who correctly guesses the meaning of your new word, you also get those points again.
  4. If your turn produces more than one word, you must write a definition for each word, and each player can guess each of the new words. Repeat the guess-scoring for each word.
  5. If you explicitly state the definition in your sentence, you immediately lose the points you earned from the word.
Here's an example. I play the word NIRF without any score modifiers like Double Letter. A quick dictionary check reveals that it isn't extant in English. That scores me 2+1+1+4 (if my points memory is working correctly). I write down that nirf is "(noun), the outer edge of a feathered nest" and say to the group, "I saw a lovely nirf while bird-watching the other day." Three other people are playing, and one of them guesses something similar to my definition. That other person gets an additional 8 points for the correct guess, and so do I for making a word that can be deduced from its use, giving me 16 points in total.

Try it out sometime. Let me know how it goes, or if you come up with any other variations to the rules.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Imposing Imprint Impressions

I'm often amused by the names that game companies adopt for themselves. Serious, amusing, esoteric, in-jokes... Since I'm about to publish Siege (hooray!), I figured I should come up with something for myself.

Years ago I wanted to create a company, but only because of the name. It would explain so much. I never did anything with that, other than use it as a throwaway line. So I'm dragging it up from the past just for this. At the end of November, Siege will be published by Them, They and Those Guys.

Feel free to attribute lots of things to us. Every time "they did a study" or "they've shown that penguins make you fat" or whatever else was done by someone you've forgotten, it might just have been us. We neither confirm nor deny it.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Steve Jackson Games adds social anxiety to your game

Steve Jackson Games appears to be taking a leaf from the pages of smaller press games like Burning Wheel. The idea that in the real world, combat is over quickly and seduction can take hours has rarely been reflected in games. Typically, combat occupies a whole evening and seduction is done in a single die roll.

I hope that's not a metaphor for the, uh "seduction" performance of some gamers.

Anyway, here's what SJGames has to say in its new announcement.
Let's look at an analogy. You know how the GURPS Basic Set has rules for combat, right? Well, gamers who love combat options have helped make GURPS Martial Arts, GURPS Tactical Shooting, and GURPS Gun Fu some of our most popular releases. Each one of those supplements augments the core combat systems with expanded info and new possibilities.

GURPS Social Engineering works the same way, adding options and rule systems for various interpersonal interactions. Think of it as "Martial Arts for the social arts."
This is great news for gamers, especially GURPS gamers. To me, the GURPS line looks a bit like the rim of Burning Wheel, spread out over several books rather than chapters.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Probabilities and Decision Points

One thing I've learned from Apocalypse World is that dice don't have to be complicated. It's a 2d6 system. More accurately, it's a 2d6 system with interesting results that point the players back to the fiction. When I first encountered small press games about five or six years ago, there seemed to be a trend of creating kooky rules for conflict resolution, combining dice with cards and the phase of the moon. The more esoteric, the better. Apocalypse World reminds us that the dice (and the rules in general, for that matter) should be as unobtrusive as possible.

It's little wonder, then, that I've felt the need to again streamline my rules for decision points in Siege. I've had a little fun working out the probabilities for the dice pools so that the player experience is simplified without affecting the probabilities significantly. In other words, you probably won't notice the difference between what the previous methods provided and this revised version.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Early Start to NaGaDeMon

I'm getting an early start to NaGaDeMon. Writing has already started.

Well, technically, the writing started about two years ago. I'm just promising myself to finish Siege and it's a good warmup to the rest of the month of writing. Today's task is an editorial passthrough and a simplification of the relationship rules.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Sessions 1 to 3

The first three sessions of Unlit Match were based in the home village of Foxglen. Hooray! The location stuck. Those sessions were a great opportunity for us to hone our knowledge of the system and also to start understanding the characters. We'd planned to watch them for a while, and watch them we did.

For Bram, the failed acolyte, there was some banter amongst the impoverished and against the established religious order. Bram, quite bitter in his heart, would do whatever he could to find dirt on them and expose them. In amongst all this, however, came a vision from Cambruach. Bram was visited by Cambruach directly and told that the only hope for the people of the land to survive the oncoming war was to return to faithfulness. Cambruach charged Bram with the message and sent him on the mission to bring the people back to their gods. Bram then decided to take the message to the prince's city: Liguelen. That was the epicentre of the war effort, after all.

At the same time, Sophie struggled to keep her business afloat. It was a small leather working enterprise, much overshadowed by the extensive ealings managed by her husband Darwin. Nevertheless, when the prince's officers came to the village to demand involvement in the war effort from Foxglen (your men or your merchandise!), Sophie saw an opportunity to revive her flagging profits: convert her business to making leather goods for the war effort. She did this and worked with Darwin to go to Liguelen to sell samples of the product to the military there. Alongside all that, arrangements are being made for Darwin to take a second wife. Sophie (taking the parallel role of Aestra in the marriage) has not borne him any children and his family hopes that by taking a second wife, he will honour the gods and through his Ferroan, he will have children.


Thursday, 20 October 2011

Star Wars Prequels

I'm pretty sure I'm one of the few people in the world who enjoyed the Star Wars prequels, with some annoyances. The key annoyance was the script. Some of the dialogue is terrible. However, I like the setting and the characters and some of the major plot features. This might just be confirmation bias at work, but that doesn't actually detract from my enjoyment.

However, this isn't a defense of my taste in movies. It's supposed to be a blog post about another way the prequels could have been done. Something that helps here is that Lucas is happy to leave big steps in the story arc to the scrolling text at the start of movies. When I read those texts, I see entire movies in them all by themselves.

The way the prequels work now are a bit like this:
  • Episode I: Find the child of the prophecy and start laying pipe beats for later.
  • Episode II: Anakin is tempted to the dark side through love and other emotional attachment
  • Episode III: Anakin turns to the dark side, destroys the Jedi and becomes Darth Vader

It hits several steps that are required to get the audience to the starting place of Episode IV. In doing so, it labours a few points and condenses others. The labouring is laboured (midichlorins, pod racing, shouting "Yippeee!"). If I could reboot it, I'd suggest these:
  • Episode I: Find the child of the prophecy in the temple, follow his training through until he is out in the field. Let him age within the film.
  • Episode II: Anakin is tempted to the dark side through love and other emotional attachment, turns against the Jedi and becomes Darth Vader at the end of the film.
  • Episode III: Anakin hunts down the Jedi, and the Jedi desperately try to put the Skywalker newborns into hiding.

To put it another way, condense the current prequels into two movies, and embellish the chase into hiding while establishing Vader as the Dark Lord of the Sith. We'd see more of Vader as a villain and see the Jedi retreat, perhaps leaving the audience with the same feeling we have at the end of Episode V.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Religion in Unlit Match

Religion was never meant to be a significant feature of the campaign when I was creating, but was always meant to be part of the landscape. When I laid eyes on the character sheet for Bram, this all had to change. He's a failed acolyte. We've added lots of details to religion as we've gone along, and this is the full picture of what we've seen in the story.

Religion of Foxglen
Aestra, goddess of the heavens
Her realm is above the clouds and reaches up beyond the stars. She brings the sun, the night, and the stars. To worship her is to remember all that is lofty and beautiful. People pay homage to her through the arts; sculpture, poetry, dance and song.

Cambruach, god of the air
Dwelling amongst men and animals, Cambruach rules from earth to clouds. His work is to create the space for all creatures to live in, even the birds and the fish. He is worshipped as the one who brings the order of nature in all its beauty and violence. His rites include feasting, learning and contests.

Ferroan, goddess of the earth
Beneath the surface, and down to the depths of depths, is Ferroan. She is the source of all fertility, bringing crops from soil and seed, children from adults. She is worshipped in growth, nakedness and burial. Rituals to Ferroan centre around the cycle of birth, life, death and renewal; in childbirth, lovemaking and mourning.

Cambruach is married to both Aestra and Ferroan, and sets the example of polygamy practised in the region. Men like to joke that he keeps his two brides far apart, and are thereby superstitious about high mountains which reach above the clouds. Waters are implicitly sexual in this religion, as in most religions. Rain, snow and storms are the symbols of his love for Aestra, and rivers, lakes and oceans the symbols of his love for Ferroan. The waters bring life and support life. Between the three of them, the whole of nature has an order. Believers aren't fatalists, however, and hold a strong sense of struggle against life's obstacles in order to gain self-realisation. Overall, this is a nature religion, looking to nature to teach and guide.

Temples of this religion tend to be complexes of buildings with open air areas in between. Some activities take place indoors and some take place barefoot outdoors. Temples have areas for contemplation, for liturgy, for theological research, for training and also for accommodating the clergy.

Religion of Liguelen
Liguelen, the nearby major city, is overseen by a single god: Ithnell. He is a god of storms and thunder and favours people who are industrious. Unlike other gods, Ithnell is also reclusive, preferring the mountains around Liguelen rather than the town itself. Worship of Ithnell revolves around hard work and labours. Priests are often large men, and also often blacksmiths. The forge is a sacred fire for Ithnell. Three is a religiously significant number. A triple lightning strike signifies Ithnell's presence, either now or very soon. Ithnell also has a cursing mark that he places upon the most apostate mortals. It's rarely used, but invokes a sense of fear, hatred, derision and anathema amongst his loyal followers.

The Dark Lord
This is a strange and foreign god, from the lands to the south. He's known only as the Dark Lord to the people around Foxglen and Liguelen. There are rumours that he has some followers in this area, but they'd be considered heretics and exist only in secret cult structures. Any worshippers encountered so far in the story are quite secretive and use a number of secret signals to identify themselves to each other.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

My Burning Wheel Campaign Is Fascinating

My Burning Wheel campaign is fascinating to me, and also to my players. It might be interesting to you, so I'm going to blog about it. We're eleven sessions in at the moment, so I'm not going to attempt a detailed account of everything we've done. In this post I'll write about the general setup that we developed before making characters.

Our story takes place in Foxglen, a village of about a thousand people - mostly human. There is a nearby larger city of Liguelen (pop. ~50,000) which is the seat of power for the prince.

Starting characters were only two lifepaths, and the second lifepath had to be from the Village list. I proposed this to the players, not to make it difficult, but to give us all an opportunity to shape our characters quickly in play. None of us had played a campaign of Burning Wheel and I dreaded the thought of anyone being stuck with a character they didn't like, unable to make changes to skills and traits for a long time. The shorter lifepath characters allowed us to play as newbies.

We allowed various types of magic, with a limitation. The kind of magic that a person could have depended entirely on their Born lifepath. I hope that Peter will chime in here with the full list, but we used this to make class distinctions obvious and geared along geography. I didn't think about it at the time, but that also connected it to religion.

Long time readers of this blog will have seen my posts on religion in gaming. One idea that we took from actual human history (gasp!) is the connection of geography to religion. A locale will have its own gods. One town will have a god or gods, as will another. If those towns are in conflict, the conflict will resolve in the real world only because it first resolved that way in the heavenlies. This explains why a smaller army can defeat a larger army - the god of the smaller army defeated the god of the larger army. I'll write about the religion of Foxglen and the religion of Liguelen in a later post.

We also wanted a larger stage for our story; some kind of broad conflict in which the characters were immersed. We decided that there was a threat from the south: a horde or invading army. There would be plenty of other activities going on around this, but it would also take place beyond the characters. They would be affected by it and could, if they played it in that direction, affect it in return. As it happens, we still wanted the focus to be on the characters and less on the threat of invasion. This is probably why I called the campaign Unlit Match.

Finally, let me introduce our two characters. Bram is played by David Pidgeon. He began the campaign as a failed acolyte, living in a shack in Foxglen, embittered at the temple and with organised religion. Sophie Marquand is played by Peter Blake. She began as a village wife, raised in Liguelen but married off to Darwin Marquand, a prosperous merchant in Foxglen.

There's more to write about, of course. Look out for a post on the religions in the campaign, a spotlight on Bram, a spotlight on Sophie, a broad story arc encompassing the first ten sessions, and then some other updates as they come to mind. Peter and David will make comments, I'm sure, to embellish and correct. I hope you find it as fascinating as we do.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Prequels

I've been thinking about prequels this week. It started as some thoughts about the Star Wars prequels, and I might blog about them another time. Where it ended, though was this thought:
Space Rat is the prequel to My Life With Master
The femme babes are all vying to be in Jack's orbit (so to speak, ahem!) and to do so they need to undergo a series of challenges. The reward is the attention of Jack Cosmos - a rat who turns out to really be a rat. Once the femme babes realise this, it's too late! They're caught continually running demeaning little errands for Jack. It's no wonder they end up with an amount of weariness and self loathing. All that effort for a rat? Eventually, one of them will recover enough self esteem to rise up and kill Jack.

The shift from Space Rat to My Life With Master is a bit like the tilt in Fiasco. "You find out the truth about Jack: he's a shallow rat. Now play!"

If I ever play this campaign, I think I'll spread it across six episodes. Three for Space Rat and three for My Life With Master - just like Star Wars.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Auscon off the starboard bow!

WOOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

After months and months of planning, Allan Carey and Mark Edwards are on the brink of making Auscon II real. In just two short days time it all starts. I'll be there early on Saturday morning, getting all the good things ready for RPGs and RPG seminars. Come along! Play some games. Play some demos. Most of all, have fun playing games!

See you there.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Lego Agonica

I bought the Lego Heroica Fortaan set last weekend. It's a bit of fun as a dungeon crawl. I'm experimenting with it to see what can be done with various map arrangements and campaign play. Maybe it'll turn into a Fighting Fantasy kind of game for me.

But while I was messing around with it, I had to turn it into an Agon range strip simply because it seemed so natural to do with all those tiles and microfigs. Behold, Lego Agonica!


Monday, 12 September 2011

To find out what happens

There's a sterling piece of advice by Vincent Baker in Apocalypse World. He's recently repeated it on his blog.
Play to find out what happens.
This is great advice. Really really good advice. For me, it unfolds in two ways.

First, it triggers the GM to present situations to the players which are more than pass or fail, because a pass or fail situation isn't a choice at all. When I'm running a game and I'm playing to find out what happens, I give them choices like this.

Second, when we all keep that advice in mind at the table, we're not so concerned about a fixed destination for the story. It allows all the players (including the GM) the freedom to meet complications with determination to accomplish the character goals. If the character really wants to achieve something, no amount of complications should get in the way, but should actually make for a good story of triumph.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Auscon Link Roundup

Looking for links for Auscon? Well, here they are!


A couple of people have asked me for these, and now you have them too. Enjoy!

And get your games booked now. Some of them are already fully booked.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Auscon Loometh

Wow. It's only four weeks until Auscon II starts. I'm still in a spin about it all. The RPG schedule is up (hooray!) and there are seminars and contests as well.

And although it's not been officially announced, I'm sneaking into the wild that there will be an RPG demo booth running in the RPG area. There'll be demos of various games and the opportunity to spend 20 minutes learning how to play RPGs in general.

Only four weeks. Eek!

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Whale Tales to be told

My copy of Do arrived the other week. Here it is, posing in front of the shelf that will be its new home.

This is one classy book. I read the PDF when it was released to the KickStarter backers, but decided to read it in the print-friendly format so that my iPad could handle it. Now having the book in my hands, I'm just delighted to have bought a print copy. My bibliophile urges are satisfied. This is a gorgeous artefact.

And now to organise a game of it.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Legend of Auscon

I'm running this. You should enter it, either as a player or as a GM.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Where did all the blog posts go?

I haven't blogged much this month. Partial credit goes to work and partial credit goes to Auscon. I've been organising the RPG events for the weekend and that's supplanted my blogging time.

The good news is that the event schedule is up and ready along with all the other events. Yes, Auscon has things other than RPGs. Go check it out.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Coveting the Fat Miniatures

In The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter had a great exchange with Clarice Starling about Buffalo Bill.
Hannibal Lecter: First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing ask: what is it in itself? What is its nature? What does he do, this man you seek?
Clarice Starling: He kills women...
Hannibal Lecter: No. That is incidental. What is the first and principal thing he does? What needs does he serve by killing?
Clarice Starling: Anger, um, social acceptance, and, huh, sexual frustrations, sir...
Hannibal Lecter: No! He covets. That is his nature. And how do we begin to covet, Clarice? Do we seek out things to covet? Make an effort to answer now.
Clarice Starling: No. We just...
Hannibal Lecter: No. We begin by coveting what we see every day. Don't you feel eyes moving over your body, Clarice? And don't your eyes seek out the things you want?

My trouble is that every couple of days I see an ad for Fat Dragon Games products appear in my inbox. Those little photos look amazing. If I were a miniatures gamer, I'd be all over them, I think.

All those ads are starting to make me covet, Doctor Lecter. They make me covet.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Fiasco from the Floating Vagabond

A game I bought many years ago was Tales From The Floating Vagabond. It was a funny little game; perhaps more funny to read than to play at the time. While at RPGNow today (buying some Greeks paper miniatures from Arion Games) I searched for it whimsically - and found it! Jubilant news! It's available in PDF!

I only searched for it because this morning I listened to The Walking Eye recording of Fiasco and thought, "This would be a great game system for Vagabond."

Have you seen it anywhere? Fiasco At The Floating Vagabond? Oh lordy, I'd play that this weekend if I had it.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Make Failure Ironic

I've heard the GM advice to make failure interesting. I've even given that advice to people. It's good advice and worth adding to your game. I'd like to refine it, though, based on the most interesting failure stories I've heard. Sorry, I won't recount them now. You don't get my raw data, just my conclusions.

So, the old dictionary on my shelf says that irony is the expression of meaning using words which normally have the opposite meaning. I've also seen it defined as something that comes from an opposite or extremely unlikely source.

And that's what the most interesting play examples of "make failure interesting" are. A failed Circles test actually finds the contact, but they're hostile to you. The expectation is a good and useful contact, but it turns out to be a bad and (potentially) useful contact. A failed lockpick roll unlocks the door to - not the treasure - a room full of guards! The expectation is opposite to what happens.

There are plenty of examples outside these, some are ironic. Another substitute for interesting is complicating. Make failure complicating. Failed detective rolls succeed in identifying the villain, but at the cost of revealing your sister's identity to the villain. (FYI: Don't call around the crime world from her phone.)

"Interesting" is a broad term. I think it's more fun to make it complicating, and even more fun to make it ironic. It might wear thin after a while, so don't be a one-trick-pony about it. But try and make failure ironic.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Auscon GMs request

This is the quiet announcement. The loud announcement is at the Auscon blog.

I'm helping coordinate the RPG section of Auscon II and I'm looking for GMs to run games.

Send an email to games@auscongames.com.au if you're interested.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Poison'd Props

I ran a game of Poison'd the other day, fulfilling several wishes in one go. I had a group of great players who threw themselves into the story. It's always nice to have players who go along with the conventions of the game. Poison'd isn't just about pirates, it's about filthy pirates and that's how the game went.

The group wasn't a regular group of mine, I was a guest GM! A couple of years ago, that was something I really wanted to do. I like running one-shots and dropping in on other groups is a great way to do this while giving the regular GM a break from their role.

I played Poison'd. 'nuff said.

Channeling my inner Nittner, I used props, mostly to create a sense of place. I had a wooden chest filled with my gaming dice (mostly gem finish) and Campaign Coins, left open on the table. There was a small whiteboard flat on the table for dice rolling, notes and Cruel Fortunes. I placed a flintlock-esque pistol and a parrying dagger on either border of the whiteboard. At one point, just about everybody picked one of them up to toy with. I even used the pistol as a pointer when asking, "And what are you doing about that?"

All good. All happy. Wishes granted.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Mobile formatting is go!

I just turned on the mobile formatting for this blog. If you view it on a mobile device and have troubles with it, leave me a comment so I know whether to persist with the option.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Creating religion

As it happens, one of my Burning Wheel players has brought religion into the game. It's quite a pleasant surprise. As GM, now I should fill it out with some details.

And I have. Especially in light of the Religion in Gaming posts I wrote this year, creating it has been a pleasure. I might even post my notes on it, if you're interested.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Unlit Match

For want of a better name, tonight is the first play session for Unlit Match, my new Burning Wheel game. I've only played BW once, and am looking forward to running it.

To keep it simple, we're only running with the Hub and the Spokes for now. I'm not fond of labouring my game with the plentiful subsystems, and as it turns out my players are coming to that party. Neither character seems largely interested in fighting, so the Fight! rules won't really be required.

I'm currently sketching up my campaign plans, finding ways to tie these two characters into the setting and each other. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to do all of that.

Monday, 2 May 2011

My Auscon Experience

The day after RPG Sunday is worth a little time and reflection on my experience of it.

I had the best start to the day because the shirt I'd ordered for the day arrived just in time. Wow. It grabbed attention, and was only a matter of minutes before someone said, "That's an awesome shirt. Where can I get one?"

To get your own, go see Daniel Solis' Cafepress site. Kudos to Daniel for making a version with correct Commonwealth spelling.

I was only at Auscon for the Sunday, but it was a very full day. Starting the RPGs at 9am on a Sunday was something of a challenge. Who's awake and keen to play story games at 9am on Sunday?!? Apparently, about fifteen people. And even though that meant I didn't get to run FU, it did mean that I could be part of a play test for Behind The Screens. Peter's got a great little game idea going there, and I'm keen to see it develop and evolve into a polished game. Seriously, people, watch for that game.

Between that and the 2pm session, I had a chance to wander the floor and see the vendors, the miniatures tables, and get a chai. The venue was exactly the right size for the con, and laid out so very well. Gaming tables in the middle completely dominated the space, but didn't overpower the trade stalls that lined the walls. Most of the product was miniatures-based, but that's not surprising, since Auscon was originally going to only cater for minis games. Ace Comics came through with the goods for RPGs (even including some Dresden Files), and I think that was in proportion to the attendees. And kudos for the staff too. There seemed to be the right number of them for the activities, spread around in the right amount.

After lunch I had the great chance to run Agon. Yes! Finally! I've offered this game at cons before and never had takers. Maybe my elevator pitch was poor, or perhaps I should also stop offering it on the same game menu as Spirit of the Century. Regardless, I had five heroes complete a quest for Hera. As far as my GM effort went, they all seemed pleased with it. I managed to test every ability, except for Music. Maybe next time for that one. I'm sure I also fudged a couple of rules, but everything seemed to flow OK and the story didn't get bogged down or lopsided because of it. Best of all, I have the feeling that even playing the game is something of an Agon, an effort. I say that, not because it's hard going, but because the characters are always getting beaten down by something in order to succeed at something else. The frustration of the characters showed on the players' faces, and that seemed like a good thing.

And in the last session, I ran the best game of Poison'd I've ever run. I was going to say that I'd redeemed Poison'd, but that just seems antithetical. The story flowed smoothly. The characters lunged for their ambitions and were frustrated by the Cruel Fortunes. There were a few things I did in this game that I'll gladly repeat next time, to help make the story work. Special thanks go to the players, for embracing the depravity of being pirates.

My only regret was not remembering that I wanted to try Sagefight. Looking back, we would have had to go outside for it. There certainly wasn't enough space inside for those kinds of shenanigans.

Overall, my experience of one-third of Auscon was positive. Allan and Mark did a marvellous job. Watch out for their next project, whatever it is. I do know, though, that the first weekend in October is going to be another gaming convention. Mark your diaries now.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

My games at Auscon

I'm offering three games at Auscon this weekend. This is what I have in mind.

9am - FU
FU looks like a genuine pickup game, so that's what I'm going to do with it. I have no preconceived notions of a setting at all, and I'm looking forward to seeing what the players come up with. I've played in these kinds of games before and will steal a technique from Steve D to set it up. Everyone has two scraps of paper and writes a single idea on each one. We draw two (or three?) at random and start from there.

2pm - Agon
I've owned this game for ages and have hardly played it at all, despite my ongoing wish to do so. This needs the most preparation, so I'm most nervous about it. It's been a while since I really prepared something with this much detail.

7pm - Poison'd
The game of depraved sailors, desperately trying to avoid the governor's gallows and their shipmates' shivs. I've run this badly before, and then I got better at it. And now I cackle at the very thought of it.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Apocalypse World by The Walking Eye

I don't often listen to actual play recordings. Last week, though, I started plugging my way through the sessions of Apocalypse World recorded by The Walking Eye. I was just curious about how Apocalypse World plays out and my curiosity was rewarded with this.

Their holy water is burning and it's awesome and it's terrifying and it's bad.

I know it's possible to say this in just about every game, and say it in context, but it made so much sense right where it was. So maybe actual play recordings aren't all bad, and maybe Apocalypse World is good. I'll have to acquire it and play it to know for sure.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Sucker Punch as Apocalyptic

There isn't usually any good reason for me to cross-post between this blog and Divine Trauma. So today is unusual. I posted a brief analysis on Sucker Punch as Apocalyptic over there and it's probably worth a read for my gaming audience too.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Don't Rest Your GM Head

I'm working out which games to personally run at Auscon next month and am considering my beloved Don't Rest Your Head. While listening to Narrative Control episode 61, I realised that when I GM that game, I have an unarticulated goal to drive one of the characters to lose all Discipline.

To do that, I need to force them to use Madness as often as possible and this goes against some advice I'd used from Fred Hicks about running DRYH at a convention. He suggested that characters should start with a couple of points of Exhaustion. I've done this a few times but what I find is that it's then harder to convince players to bring the Madness, without a succession of high Pain challenges. It does, however, bring them to Crash much sooner and that takes the game in a different direction.

So, dear reader, I want some more advice from you about how you run DRYH. What's your GM tip for the game, especially for convention play?

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Siege Blind Playtesting Has Stopped

Well, it's past the end of February, and according to my development plan I've finished the blind playtesting part of the project. I had some good feedback from this phase and am now reviewing all the comments to make my game text better.

I'm so very grateful for all the people who helped me with that. Much appreciated.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Auscon Story Games

I met with the organisers of Auscon last weekend and agreed to help coordinate the story games component of Auscon. They've got some great ideas about running conventions and building community amongst gamers of various kinds and I'm looking forward to the Auscon weekend itself.

Story games will be run on Sunday May 1 and only on that day. It's a deliberate taster event for a larger convention in September or October this year. Watch out for details of the latter one as we draw nearer.

For Auscon, though, I'm putting out the call for people to run games. Any system. Any setting. I want to see D&D alongside Fiasco, if possible. There will be ten tables available at the 9am, 2pm and 7pm sessions. That's 30 GM-slots I want to fill.

If you volunteer to run a game, there'll even be a sweetener for you - a weekend pass to Auscon. That's free entry to the whole weekend for anyone who signs up to run a game in at least one of the 30 GM-slots available. Send me an email at ((andrew)) (dot) ((mg)) (dot) ((smith)) at ((gmail)) (dot) ((com)) and let me know what you'd like to run and at which session. Slots will be filled based on who grabs them first.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Star Wars Agony

It's no secret that I like Star Wars. I've never played any of the RPGs, though, but I've played the WOTC minis game a few times and have several minis. But as I was thinking about what to do with all those minis this morning, I figured that I could use Agon rules to play a good Clone Wars campaign. Substitute the Jedi Council for the gods, the Jedi for the heroes, various Force powers for the weapons, and several other cosmetic changes and it'll work nicely.

Interestingly, I'd like to change the Oaths to Doctrines in some way. Oaths bind one character to another as a debt of obligation in Agon. The only obligation that a Jedi has is to the doctrine of the Jedi council. It'd be great to see a Jedi compelled to move this way or that in combat as a result of necessarily obedience to the Jedi code.

That's today's Star Wars mashup, at least. Enjoy!

Friday, 18 February 2011

No Gen Con Oz in 2011

...but I'm sure you didn't read that here first.

In an announcement overnight, the Eventions team told the world that they will not run Gen Con Oz in 2011, having also cancelled it in 2010. This has made a lot of people upset and started calls for replacement events. I saw one levelled at Here Be Gamers to "just run the alternative events again."

I confess to being a little surprised at the announcement. After two years of running it, and then a year of not, there was a great deal of interest in bringing it back in 2011. Maybe I'm a bit optimistic. I'd like to think that we learn from the failures and find a way around them for the next challenge. At least this time Eventions hadn't committed so much as to accept registrations and payments, so that's evidence of a lesson learned.

Even though gamers are quite loud on the internet, I don't know whether that's actually a reflection of the total sentiment or the actual market size associated with Gen Con Oz. I'm leaning towards the former.

In the absence of Gen Con Oz, what will attendees do? The cosplayers are an enthusiastic bunch, and have lots of other opportunities for their hobby. They have events like Supanova, places like the Mana Bar, the everpresent photoshoot-on-the-internet, and plenty of meetups around the place. The computer gamers have everything from solo play at home, to online play at home, to private networks, to events like Supanova (again!). Board gamers? It's a similar story. Card gamers? Ditto. Miniatures gamers? Ditto again. And on top of all that is the upcoming Auscon. So who's missing? Story gamers (ok, ok. roleplayers). It's the most complicated of all the participation events typically seen at conventions, and the one that requires the greatest input from retailers.

My point with all this is that the Australian geek crowd has outlets in a dozen other places. So why are so many upset or disappointed? I think we love the name of Gen Con. It's a revered brand, made even more "sacred" because it's so far away. It's a kind of Mecca, or Shangri-la. Many of us know someone who slapped down the cash to fly across the Pacific to get to Gen Con. It's such a pilgrimage and shows a devotion. To have Shangri-la come down from heaven and land in Australia was such a treat. With projected expectations like that, it's no surprise that the disappointement is so strong. We love the brand, and that's what draws the crowd and what costs people like Eventions some extra money. Licensing brands isn't cheap or easy. The brand owners want to make sure that they put the brand into safe hands, so they make it too expensive for backyard operators.

The hard work will be to create something as beloved by Australian gamers (et al) to meet a similar recreational need. There are plenty of smaller conventions out there that currently do it for their cities or regions. Perhaps Australia cannot sustain a large convention like Gen Con Oz at all.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Religious Identities in Your Game

Religion often gets the blame for violence and war in human history, and it's fair to say that it should accept responsibility for some of that. I think, though, that in the West we isolate religion too much and try to assign blame on that single factor, whereas religion doesn't stand alone at any point or for any person. Or to put it another way, religion can't be added-in or subtracted-from in the same way that a sport or hobby can. So what does a religion do?

Religion gives identity, and in most cases it adds to identity.

Throughout human history, identity has been a combination of three factors: religion, land and ethnicity. Even though we can break down these into smaller categories, the big three are religion, land and ethnicity. When we read about any population, we always read about these three. The key to understanding how religion fits is to first understand that these three factors can't easily be pulled apart. For example, the Babylonian people (ethnicity) lived in and around Babylon (land) and worshipped Babylonian gods (religion). They understood that the people in the nearby country were a different people, lived in a different land, and had local gods.

The three elements together provide the binding features for the society and if any of those factors are threatened or removed, it causes a problem. And in story games, problems make story.

In your game, you can use religion to give your characters identity by tying it to the land and the people. Lore checks can reveal that the Lothir people in the Handar Valley worship Ahud the sun god, for example.

Individual characters can also gain identity from the religion. In Christianity, St Paul was Saul before he became a Christian. The conversion moment was enough to warrant a name change. Even today, converts in some countries change their names to one more suited to the new religion. Furthermore, children born into a religion are often given names of religious heroes, named by parents to honour the antecedent and perhaps as a hope for the life of the child.

Identity can also come through religious observances. A religion might have a systematic marking system in either clothing or tattoos. Conversely, they might abstain from tattoos altogether, or engage in some other flesh alteration like circumcision or ritual piercings. Consider also how hair is worn or shaped. Is there a religious significance to it? What happens to the Samson character who has long hair as religious devotion, and then has it forcibly cut off?

Religious symbols also provide identity markers for peoples and characters. It might be incorporated into the battle standard for the people, or on the currency ("In God We Trust").

The dark side of any such symbols is the obvious definition of who is an insider and who is an outsider. In Nazi Germany, homosexuals were forced to wear pink triangles on their clothes, and Jews had to wear a yellow star of David. The presence or absence of symbols in a society can be telling for prejudices or honour, and compounded further if those symbols have social and religious meaning.

Religion provides identity in many ways. In your game, you can use this as background: descriptions of architecture or idioms. You could use it as deeply felt personhood, in which a people group believe they are chosen by the gods for a special purpose. You could run a story about the ostracism associated with conversion and apostasy. Religion and identity are tightly woven together, and can give depth to your characters, and in turn provide plenty of drive for stories.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Siege Blind Playtesting Has Results

Despite my earlier remarks, it seems that people have been playing Siege. I've started to receive a couple of play test reports and am quite pleased with what I've read. Not everything went smoothly, and it's obvious that I need to change the text in a couple of places to make sure that it's more clear to the reader, but not everywhere. At the end of February I'll take all the play test reports and revise the text.

A bit of progress goes a long way to making a happy Andrew.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Counter-factual Play

File:David - The Death of Socrates.jpgI like to listen to the Philosophers Zone as a podcast and in a recent episode the topic was the Philosophical Baby. Slightly out of context was this comment by the guest (Alison Gopnik) about imagining counter-factual realities. Although this quote is about babies, it's worth reading it substituting "babies" with "gamers" or "story makers" to give it the context for this blog. I hope you see what grabbed my attention.

Well in fact, what we discovered is that babies and young children are extremely good at imagining counter-factual alternatives, other ways that the world could be, other than they way that they are now. That's what children do when they are involved in pretend play, which is one of the most characteristic things for 3 and 4 year olds to do. 3 and 4 year olds will spend 24/7 often as crazed world princesses and ninjas and who knows what else.

One of the great puzzles has always been why do they do that, why are they often in these alternative universes? And one thought is that if what babies and young children are doing is figuring out the causal structure of the world, an old philosophical idea is that understanding causation is a good idea because it lets you construct counter-factual, it lets you imagine other ways that the world could be. And what we think is that just as in their exploratory play, children are finding out all about the world around them in an uninhibited way. In their pretend way, children are exploring possibilities, but they're doing it in an uninhibited way.

(emphasis is mine)

I think this is a great way to think about our story games, as an exploration of other ways the world could be. Mind you, I wouldn't want to live in some of the worlds my games have created, but there are others that would be pure delight.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Religious Taboos in Your Game

I wrote previously about religious institutions and how they can feature in your game. This post on religion in gaming is all about taboos. Many religions impose prohibitions on people, from the seemingly-trivial to the serious matters of life and death. To the eyes of a typical Western observer some taboos seems strange and petty, perhaps archaic colour of no practical use. As long as we remember that those same Western eyes are observing across the gulfs of time, space, culture and language, we can start to explore the role of the taboo and find ways to apply it to games.

Taboos are sometimes symbolic code for something quite practical. Looking at Dreamtime stories as an example, some prohibitions relate to poisonous plants or animals that the hearer will remember and use to survive. Disguised survival lessons also work in the positive, weaving the location of a billabong into the events, using geographical markers found in the local area. In your game, you could use this to show plants or locations that the locals avoid, and then open an adventure to discover why they avoid it, and perhaps have the players face that danger. They could unwittingly consume a poisonous substance, or bravely face the demon. Be sure to have the locals show fear, perhaps superstition, about the taboo. Mothers will snap at their children for mentioning it.

Sometimes taboos exist to manage procreation. Aborigines in central Australia have a complex system of totems showing which people can have children together without the risk of birth defects. Use this in your game to start a story of forbidden love, or a story of devotion to a child born from forbidden love and now living with some kind of genetic defect. It could be as fantastical as a quest to find a magic cure, or as dark as a secret that should not be exposed (Perhaps the prince has a forbidden lover, and the child is proof of breaking the taboo, costing him the throne...)

Dietary taboos are prevalent in some religions. Don't eat pork of shellfish. Don't drink alcohol. These dietary restrictions can be signs of devotion or cultural markers. As devotion, they are personally important to characters, but can cause problems. Supposing a non-drinker wants to do business in a culture that prizes bargains over drinks. Devotion and cultural markers can turn bad and become a source of condescension or disgust. After all, if that food isn't sanctioned by the gods for human consumption, then we can question the humanity of anyone who does eat it.

The last one for today is misogyny or misandry. In our own history, taboos about women have been used to enforce patriarchal structures of power in society. Are men and women treated differently by the religion? Use this to establish etiquette in the game, and then conflict by breaking those traditions.

In general, religious taboos can be a source of story in your game in a number of ways. Think about what the taboo is and how it marks out the people who hold it to be forbidden. Consider what happens when they are in contact with the "unclean" neighbouring peoples. Consider what happens when people break taboos. Taboos might be arbitrary, or practical, or just something that a petty deity despises. The addition of a taboo to your game setting immediately acts as a creative constraint that can generate plenty of story for your characters.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Religious Institutions in Your Game

I'm a student of religion and I'm a gamer. I've seen religion used as a plot device in a few different ways in games, but I can't help feel that it's always a tired cliche rather than a vibrant element to the story. Religion is still an important feature in the lives of most people on the planet, and for the sake of fiction it adds flavour and depth to a character and a story.

Perhaps the most obvious use of religion is the religion as institution. When you're thinking about how to establish a religious institution in your game, you need to acknowledge that it is an institution in society, for better or worse, like all other institutions. It's a socially-acknowledged organisation with legal status, authority, responsibility, symbols, finances, people, buildings, rituals and goals. The religious institution almost certainly has political aspirations, preferring one kind of government or ruler over another, whether overtly or covertly expressed. Think about who the secular powers are in your game and decide whether the established religion supports them or not. Are they working to undermine the ruler or to strengthen the dominion? Perhaps they are trying to subvert an unjust king without being discovered.

As an institution, the inner workings are hidden from the view of outsiders. Consider the tax department as a secular parallel to get my point. And where things can be hidden, someone will find a way to hide their evils in amongst it all. *cough* *Enron* *cough* Contemporary examples of this in Christian institutions include pedophilia, embezzlement, adultery, and so on. In short, everything that the religion opposes has probably been hidden in the institution. Which evils are hiding in the institution in your game? Who is hiding them? Who is committing them? In this way, the religious institution is no different to a corporation or government department, and it makes for lots of plot opportunities.

Also, an institution is something that people can't disbelieve in. It's there, and is an agent in the society. Regular people will interact with it somehow, perhaps through temple attendances or street parades. They almost certainly will touch on certain festivals or holy days, either as historical remnants or as a living and vibrant day. Holy days can be solemn, reflective, relaxing, celebratory, ecstatic or even orgiastic. Which kinds of holy days are included on the sacred calendar of the religions institution in your game? What do they celebrate?

The last thing I'll say about religious institutions in your game is the role of religion as ideological enforcers for the established order. Historically, we've seen this in Europe as the Inquisition. Today, this is the actually existing condition in Iran, as applied by the Guardian Council. In fiction, I especially like the Jedi Council as an example. The religious institution interprets the ideology and has authority to interpret and enforce it. In your game, you would need to think about the tenets of the religion, the interpretive structures of scholars and clerics, the powers (legal or supernatural) of the enforcers. Remember that they all believe they are safeguarding the One True Way. You might also need to think about what could happen if they don't safeguard the community or nation. Will the deity bring calamity because of unfaithfulness? Or is the deity a little patient?

These are just four ways - an organised entity in society, a haven for corruption, an agent in society, enforcers of ideology - for you to bring a religion as an institution into your game.

After writing this post, I find myself brimming with ideas about how other aspects of religion can contribute to your game. And that means more posts on the subject. Watch this space.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Go Play Brisbane

I'm starting to think about when to run Go Play Brisbane in 2011. Twice in 2011 is good, roughly equidistant from Gen Con Oz. The last I heard, Gen Con Oz is likely to be in July, so that places Go Play nicely in March or April, and October or November.

Watch this space for more.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Siege Blind Playtesting Has (Re)started

I'm always impressed by the willingness of people to lend a hand. It happened again. In my last post I mentioned that I hadn't had any volunteers for blind playtesting, and that I was close to stopping the project.

And then three people volunteered to run blind playtests for me.

Thank you, three people.