Category Archives: Games

GameChef ’06 Volume I in print!

Technomancer Press, LLC will have the first print edition of the 2006 “Game Chef” challenge winners available by GenCon. Technomancer is happy to see 4 of the top 8 indie RPG design winners into this first print volume, including grand prize winner Moyra Turkington’s 2-hour procedural drama/cop show RPG “Crime and Punishment”.

Further, all profits from the GameChef series will be devoted to the Child’s Play Charity, bringing games to sick kids in children’s hospitals. As Game Chef lead Andy Kitkowski notes, “If it sells, yay, more cancer kids get Gameboys.” Game Chef is also a nominee for the prestigous 2006 Diana Jones Award, to be awarded at GenCon.

“Game Chef 2006 Vol I” appears in stores and at the PAX convention on November 23, and a limited number of copies will be on sale at the Studio2Publishing booth at GenCon August 10th to celebrate the Diana Jones Award nomination. Distributors and retailers can order via their Studio2Publishing.com accounts. Information on Technomancer Press is available at www.technomancer-press.com, Game Chef details are at www.game-chef.com, and Child’s Play at www.childsplaycharity.org.

[C+P] Playtest Shilling + P/P

[xposted on SG]

Now that I’ve let it slip that my design for Crime and Punishment was partially an experiment in mechanically supported pull/push, and there are folks out there revving to see push/pull in action or to talk about the application of the model as it applies to design….

Can I get any takers to do playtesting? Huh? Huh? Pretty please? Crime and Punishment will restore receeding hairlines! Help you lose 10 pounds! Liven up your sex lives! Enlarge your…. well you get the idea. ;P

Easier than anything, you only need three players and 2 hours to play!

I’m going to go with playtesting for the moment based on the Game Chef version of the game which can be found here. So if the answer is yes, let me know and just snag a copy from the link!

[BitV] Logs – Setup and Session 1

Hey all,

There were demands on Storygames for us to share the logs of the sessions of our All-Female Dogs game, affectionately called “Bitches in the Vinyard”.

Here are the logs, edited for clarity:

In case it isn’t clear from the context:

  • Lines preceeded by “OOC” are out of character.
  • Lines preceeded by “Dogs: ” are the dice and resolution effects.
  • “Sister Abigail” is “KJ” Jessica – kleenestar.
  • “Sister Clemintine” is “PJ” Jesica – peaseblossom
  • “Sister Hannah” is Nancy
  • “Sister Chase” is Mo

Also, we experienced some technical problems with our first conflict resolution tool, so if the numbers seem screwy, don’t worry about it.

Cheers!

Killing Sinners for Vincent

Over on Fair Game, Vincent Baker and Clinton R Nixon are interviewing each other and Vincent said something that made me blink:

“Nobody I know of has played Dogs and not killed sinners just for sinning.”

Now, John Harper at The Mighty Atom has already done this, but I thought I’d throw Jeremiah Wainwright, my first Dogs character into the fray as an example.

Jeremiah’s never killed anything, for sin for fun, or for any reason at all. In fact, Jeremiah’s got a trait to prove it: “I ain’t killed anything my whole life: 1d8.”

What’s more, Jeremiah’s whole premise is about the killing line: what it takes a person to get there and about how much of a man it takes not to cross it before the time comes and how much it takes to make that step when it does.

Through a series of escalating situations that line has been questioned, but the step over has never come. Brand will, eventually, get his ass into gear and run us some more of that campaign (she says, despite the fact that she currently demands 2 other games from him on a regular basis, so is really out of line with that “get his ass in gear comment”), and I am interested in seeing what’s the point that Jeremiah might actually have to kill something, or someone, whether or not he’ll be able to step up when we get there, and how it will change or destroy him.

There were two particularly memorable moments:

In the town, basically a man’s pride in refusing to give his wife children had escalated to a group of women forming a false priesthood, engaging men not their husbands in adulterous acts for the sake of insemination. One of the characters was a mentally challenged wall of a man in his 20’s one of those men beguiled by the women. He was angry, and confused, and Jeremiah, knowing August had sinned by fucking his brother’s wife, as well as another woman in town, was confronting him to try and get him to understand the error of his ways. Jeremiah talked, August got physical, Jeremiah talked, August got violent, and Jeremiah talked him down, just before things got really really bad for Jeremiah. As it was, he took a lot of fallout from the challenge.

Later, in the moment the murder was coming on, August’s mother, a prideful old convert was trying to kill her daughter in law after shooting the Steward who had started the false doctrine in the first place. Jeremiah tried to talk her down, and failing that, escalated to physical (in the face of her gunfire) and managed to eventually make her back down, getting in between her and the muzzle of his fellow Dog’s gun. Once again, much fallout, but he never once escalated to violence, never mind gunplay, nevermind killing.

That’s not to say he was easy on anyone. People were exiled, their houses were taken, they were put into public service, cut off at their knees in the public’s standing.

Brand said afterwards that one of his only dissappointments in the game was, that no matter what he did, he couldn’t force Jeremiah tto shoot anybody in the face.

Saurashtra – Actual Pull Play Examples

So. Actual Play.

For the moment I’m going to stick with one particular game, because it’s a Nar game, even if it didn’t use a good system to support it’s Nar (Brand found it a pain in the ass, but frankly, I think it made us innovate), and because, well it’s full of examples, and I’m a lazy ass.

Part the first: Kika

There’s the (apparently) infamous one that Brand talked about on The Forge, and that is written up here in more story-like style. In this discussion, I’m going to talk about one critical pull transaction, but it will be important later in the blog to discussions about using pull techniques to create satisfying and functional immersion play in Nar games. So if I’ve referred you here from the future, this is the example I mean. If you’re reading this in the present, the previous sentence has nothing to do with the droids you’re looking for.

The critical pull, is, of course, the moment that I had Kika set aside her weapons and charms and put herself at the mercy of Jerzom. Over on 20×20 when we were talking about it today, Brand helped to explain that we were in what Polaris calls “freeplay” when I did these things. Brand was all expecting a war, either physical or manipulation-verbal. I did not need a conflict for Jerzom to come to me, I knew he was coming. Brand wasn’t sure what I wanted and so he asked what I was trying to accomplish, and I pulled.

In that moment, Kika was the hero I’d always hoped she’d be. I was happy with what she’d become, and nothing that Jerzom did to her was going to change that. I had complete trust in Brand, in the group, and in the story we’d made together. I opened up the space for Brand to fill up. It wasn’t a passive move, it wasn’t that I didn’t care, wasn’t engaged or was being passive aggressive. I’d brought it hard in this game for two years. I’d addressed the premise of the game to the fullest extent every step of the way and in the last moment I put her and everything I worked for on the table to be judged, for Brand to come in and tell me what it was that I’d accomplished, to agree with me that this is what the story was all about, and fill up the space I’d given him with everything he wanted Kika and Jerzom and their story, and the story at large to say.

Part the second: Taree

This one is not my character, its one of other players in the game, who played the flawed hero striving to live past his flaw to become a truly noble scion. By this point he had faced off against his family, against the Realm, against himself a lot. Throughout the game, Taree’s player pushed and pushed and pushed. He pushed exceedingly well from within the system – he killed everything that came in his way. He told a great story, and this was the end of it:

In his last scene, he faced off against his cousin, possessed by Malefeus, the biggest Yozi of them all. He pushed and pushed, speaking with the Yozi inside his cousin, and it was all really heartbreaking. Finally, he used knives that could suck the souls of their victims driving one into her gut and one into his own. Doing so, he trapped both himself and the Yozi within his body, and at last, he spoke the Rune of Unconquerable Self which, when invoked, kills the user instantly, ending both his life and the Yozi’s with him.

Sound like push play? It is. What came next wasn’t. Brand pulled Taree’s player. He asked him to roll his virtues and gave him the opportunity, for each success he earned, to describe the legacy that his life had brought to the world. Taree’s player accepted this, and described several, but what Brand offered him was a wealth of opportunity and a little overwhelming. Rather than just laming off the extras he couldn’t think up, or putting anything less than the game deserved, he turned to me and the other player and said: “You tell me. What kind of person has he been? What good or ill has he brought to the world?” and invited us to make strong, lasting statements about what he’d given to the story. He pulled his fellow players to have the last word on who his character had been.

There’s a couple.

I’m sure I’ll do more as I think of them, but I wanted to get something out.

One more note: I can’t say if this has anything to do with the pull examples above, but I think it has a lot to do with the pullish kind of social dynamics that we’d encouraged around the table over the entire duration of the game. Even if it’s irrelevant, it’s a cool success story about a former Sim junkie in her first Nar game, so I think you’ll like it:

The third player played Dae, a barbarian warrior woman who becomes the protector of the civilization she once despised. Her player had real trouble initially in the game with some of the concepts of Nar. She had problems authoring directly to the fiction, thinking of the story in terms of premise, and she had real trouble asserting desires or demands to the GM. At one point in the beginning, she even had brought some notes in on a piece of paper that she gave to Brand with some things she wanted because it made her so uncomfortable to tell him about it, and Taree’s player, (her husband) had told her that she must ask for it when they were discussing the previous episode. She even at one point pretended to lose the sheet to stall in giving it to him (though this may have been done comically). She’s definitely never been a particularly push player.

In her last scene, she realized in a fight with the Ebon Dragon, that she couldn’t kill him, and he couldn’t kill her, and that they couldn’t exhaust each other. The fight would be endless, her life filled with nothing but the endless, un-winnable war. In the entire two years of the campaign, the character had never walked away from a fight. She had only ever lost two fights, and those were when she was beaten so badly she really had no choice. She had to choose between letting him go free or giving up any chance at happiness, or a life. She chose life.

At the end of the game, all of our final scenes had ended, it had been brutal and beautiful and brilliant. Brand said “I think that’s it, unless there’s something else you need?” and (which, come to think of it, can be seen as a pull, considering where we were and how open it was, and what came of it.) Dae’s player, who had had such a problem asserting narrative desire, nevermind narrative control didn’t tell Brand what she wanted, she just started to narrate, giving the story the denouement that she needed it to have, that frankly, we all needed it to have and that none of us, Taree’s player, Brand or I could have given at that time.

Neat huh?

1000 Stories

So… the weekend was a lot unique. Brand’s paperwork finally came through, so we took an overnight run down to Niagara Falls to land him at the border and to celebrate. Very fun, very exciting, such a latent load of stress off for us both! – all of which might have contributed to what happened next. On Saturday, our second (and last) day out, we were supposed to be going to lunch and then heading to the Aviary. We never made it. Over lunch I told Brand (again) that I wanted to make games with him, like, soon. We’ve been batting around cool ideas and what if?’s and how do we do…?’s for a long while now.

So we did.

I mean, we’re by no means done, but in the three hours in the restaurant, the three hours at the train station, the two hours on the train and the two hours over dinner we’d sketched out what we wanted the game to accomplish, how we wanted to accomplish it, came up with an in-progress mechanics model, a chargen system, a system of social support and engagement based on a game idea I dreamed up a couple of months ago.

Yesterday I spent the day creating characters, to “try on” what the game’s dimensions were from the inside. In the next couple of days we’re going to theoretically model the system works (Hey! I guess this means my Process & System Analyst training comes in useful in my regular life for once, eh?) This weekend we’re mapping it out and trying to flesh out enough text that other people will be able to try it out. I’m hyped about moving towards a playtest because I want to see how people will react to it, what they will create with it.

I’m not sure how much I want to go into details yet, because things are still ruminating in my head, and are changing on an hour to hour basis. Suffice to say I’m extremely excited because if we can do what we’re setting out to do, we will be offering support for types of play not necessarily supported by existing games – hard hitting, strong emotionally connective stories that are modular, evolutionary , are designed to accomodate both immersive and non-immersive players and that have strong ritual support that both underline and encourage social responsibility in play.

Tall order? Hell yes! Can we do it? I guess you’ll have to tell us when we’re done!

For now, we’re referring to it as 1000 Stories. Not sure what it will be called down the line… Can you tell I’m hyped?

Actual Play – Breaking the Ice.

Okay, so I’m a dork who starts a blog and then does nothing with it for two months. I should have warned y’all: I do this, especially at the beginning. I get periodically obsessed about one of my hobbies and devote whatever free time I have to it. This last month I’ve been sketching. I’ve also been working. More in the last month than in the last year, I’d say. Anyway, on to the post.

Brand and I pretty much have the whole gambit of Nar games now, they’ve been arriving almost daily, in flurries, like snow. The only one we’re missing is Mountain Witch, and that’s just cause shipping to Canada was problematic, so it’s sitting at his folks house waiting to be shipped out in the next couple of days.

So Brand and I decided, quite spur of the moment-y, to play Breaking the Ice tonight. We spread out a big flip chart sheet on the coffee table, break out a mound o’ d6’s and set to work. We settled on something easy to start: Romantic Comedy – a PG 13 John Cusak-y kind of thing somewhere between High Fidelity and Gross Pointe Blank. We ended up nowhere near either of them. Our switch was gender.

Mo: Charles LaFleche
Colour: Purple -Royalty – Entitlement – Wealth
-Talkative – Writer
– Gossip
– Rumour
– Sunset – Lake
– Ending – Coffin

Turned into: Self: Metrosexual New Orleans Playboy
Creole descent
Independently Wealthy
Work: Society Gossip Columnist
Play: Has a summer home
Crowned Prince of Mardi Gras
Beautiful Singing Voice
Conflict: Dead lover: Lorelai

Brand: Deneis King
Colour: Blue – Police – Brutality_________
> Bourbon Street – Stripper
– Saxophone – Jazz – Speakeasy
– Sadness – Rain – Farm
– Sky – Airplane
Turned into: Self: Grew up on a farm
I used to date a cop
Work: Window Dancer
Trained in ballet
Play: Jazz addict
Plays the Sax
Conflict: Jealous Ex

Overview: Background: Charles met Deneis at the club she works at on Bourbon Street, he asked her out, she accepted, he’s going to pick her up.
Date 1: Charles picked Deneis up, she took him to Pirelli’s for the best fried chicken in NO. While there, a couple of cops show up and give Deneis a little bit of a hassle, introducing her ex-bf Marcus (complication) and a finds a friend of hers has started working there, exhibiting her lower class background (re-roll). He handles both situations moderately well, they leave. Deneis plays her sax for him. They discover that they have a mutual interest in Jazz (compatibility), he comes on to her harder, they have a first kiss, he leaves. They’ve established a bit of Attraction to each other (2).

Between dates (reroll on perm attraction), we discover that there has been some rumours circulating about her ex-bf the cop dating a woman with ties to underground crime. Deneis earns new trait: Brother in a gang.

Date 2: It’s just after Easter, lent is over, the N.O. Mardis Gras royalty are gathering, and Charles has brought Deneis as his date. It’s a masquerade ball, and she has come as Odette the Black Swan. The rumour comes out, some society women identify Deneis, call her a slut, make overtones to the crime connections. Charles uses his mad skillz as the local gossip maestro to publicly embarrass the woman. Deneis sticks up for herself before running out. Charles humiliates the woman and then chases Deneis out. She tells him that she can’t live with his job, they part, not intending on seeing each other again. Their attraction grows more, mostly because they have resolved not to be together (4).

Between the dates the rumours get worse, the brother gets arrested and Charles refuses to print the story (re-roll), earning the ire of his boss and the trait: In danger of losing my job.

Date 3: On a suddenly rainy day weeks later, in the entrance archway of Preservation Hall, Charles is waiting out the rain storm when a soaked Deneis ducks in for a moment of respite against the deluge. They talk, and learn that they have more in common : that they believe that what is inside is what counts (compatibility). They apologize to each other, decide do give it one more go. They go for coffee at Cafe du Monde and run into Marcus, who was generally intimidating. Charles goes to stand up for her when she finally stands up to Marcus, and the pair go running off. Cafe du Monde is overrun with a traveling, damp, grumpy octogenarian tour bus load (reroll) so they take their Cafe de Laits and beignets to go and head down to the Jazz National Park. There is a crooner inside, and as they listen, sharing their love of jazz, they dance in the hall and out into the rain. When Charles’ boss comes upon them, who has been brought to witness by the woman who Charles humiliated at the club, Charles confronts him and quits. Deneis and Charles both agree that they are above all the Gossip (compatibility)

Deneis takes him home and after a sexy change of clothes, they have a fade to black. Afterwards, Charles watches her sleep and thinks of Lorelai and finally begins to mourn. She wakes and they talk about the accident that killed her. Deneis comforts him and he asks her to promise him that she won’t die on him, she tells him that she can’t promise that she’ll be there forever, or even that she’ll love him forever, but that she’s here now, and she loves him now, and that’s enough. She told him that it was a mistake to think he was driving then, or that he was driving now. She told him they were all just hydroplaning in life and there wasn’t any control to be had, and in their mutual comfort of each other, the credits rolled. Final attraction score: 6 Final compatibility: 3.

Playing notes:

We struggled a lot to find a happy pace in the game. Because we were learning the whole new fangled dice process, we found that we would get distracted by that and drop the story. So, while the story turned out kind of neat in the end, it wasn’t consistent through the actual play. We weren’t entirely sure when we should be rolling dice, so ended up rolling them as we went (including Attractiveness dice and bonus dice) but this ended up getting us bogged down in vying for re-rolls by making plot go askew when we failed. On a re-read, we see that the book says that conflict/compatibility dice are to be rolled in-scene, but the others should be at the end. That probably would have made for a better focus in scene, but we also wondered if it would end up in a pattern of:

Good date interaction + good date interaction + good date interaction = lots of dice + bad dice roll -> bad date interaction + bad date interaction = higher attraction, and weren’t sure how that would affect the game.

I had some trouble because I’m really an immersivist at heart (and I think that this style of play can entirely be Nar, but this is for another post) and because our story was told in fits and starts I couldn’t really immerse – so I have a more intellectual appreciation for the story than an emotional attachment to it.

I also had problems with the switch, though I so did not expect this. I do not think it was strictly a matter of playing a male character, as I have done this on a number of occasions. I thought maybe it was playing a sexualized boy (less as trouble sexualizing the object of desire but as being the subject of desire in this context) but I don’t think that’s it either. I thing it was more the type of sexualized boy that I was aiming for. I was an envisioning a Jude Law to Brand’s Gabrielle Union, where usually if I had opted to play a boy I would have aimed for a butchier, less upper-crust high society man, and more a blue-collar rake, if this makes any sense.

We thought the word web was a neat chargen idea and liked having input into each other’s character. Now that I’ve seen it in practice, I’d probably apply a better focus and intent to it, and not been so random. We’d probably make more traits at the get go and add them more liberally in play to help shape the story more fluidly. That’s mostly a matter of getting used to how the game works.

We liked that we could decide at 6:30 to play, be about to start actual play by 7:00 and wrap up by 9:00 (with the freedom, of course, to go longer). It made for a fun, non-stressy way to spend an evening. We’ll definitely play again, especially since we have a better idea of how the game should flow, and we expect that when we iron that out between us, it will be loads of fun.

We both liked the idea of “suaving” to earn bonus dice and “flubbing” to earn re-rolls (we both look favorably on system support to reward players to be vulnerable and give), though we have trouble dis-associating the roll from the chronological event of the outcome. The re-roll system is really neither task nor conflict resolution, it’s social support and story generation, yet it determines the attractiveness score and compatibility traits, which are, essentially, the conflict resolution outcomes of the interaction (date). It’s not a bad thing, but it is a whole different take, and therefore requires some stretching to get your head around.

The Active Player/Guide dynamic was very interesting to us, and quite revealing about us. On my part, I’m someone who has rarely been a GM, and so it is not second nature to handle things like awarding bonus dice, determine re-rolls, etc, nor especially to keep track of those things while at the same time contributing to the story. I felt (especially at the beginning) a little torn between the two responsibilities when acting as the Guide. The fact that I was initially negligent highlighted how deftly the bonus die system is an approval generating mechanism. In the book it mentions that the dice you dole out are a method to give props to the Active Player, and it’s interesting to see how true that is. I kept forgetting to give them out, and Brand quickly thought I was not enjoying the game or his contribution to story, so would change gears. When I tried to follow, I would forget again about the dice, and so he’d think the change hadn’t been sufficiently interesting. He frequently had to prompt me to confirm if I had just forgotten to award the dice or if I needed more.

On Brand’s behalf, who has more GM experience than any other person I’ve ever met, he found the Guide roll to be difficult in an entirely opposite way. As a GM, he’s used to being the source of all opposition, the “push” that makes it possible for the characters to make hard moral choices out of which stories are born. In Breaking the Ice, there’s no pusher, and no push. The game is all pull, everything is contribution, collaboration and agreement. It drastically changes the way that story is created, and we both agree that it’s closer to a female mode of story creation, though neither of us are fully sure what that delineation will lead us to. Props to Emily for making a game that allows us to explore that differentiation.

We both found it interesting that as Active Players, neither of us in the course of play ever turned down or even really debated any suggestion made by the Guide. Brand wonders if we had never been each other’s GM’s before if we would have given more resistance, but in the end we think it’s just that the system effectively supported the collaborative aspect, rewarded it by mechanics, and we were both more interested in seeing the process than pushing the story this time around. It’ll be interesting to see where our next game goes.