2013-06-13 : Monsterhearts Second Skins
Monsterhearts Second Skins! Two days to go!
Monsterhearts is one of my very favorite games.
Can I tell you? I’m excited about the whole project, but this evening I’m most excited about the joke skins. I’ve seen Patrick Henry Downs’ joke Apocalypse World playbook The Maelstrom, and it’s brilliant. I wonder if calling it a “joke” might let you unlock your best ideas.
2013-06-12 : Status is Your Toy!
Part I: Disclaimers (i): Who knows! Not me.
I don’t imagine that any of this is true. I offer it up as a look into how I think of things. I invite you to compare it with your own experiences and the conclusions you’ve drawn from them, take what you find useful, and discard what you don’t.
I don’t imagine that this will be status-neutral. I apologize in advance for any stress or upset this causes. I’ve decided to use the Forge for examples, because while the group it represents still exists, it’s increasingly dissolute. Where I name someone other than myself, I don’t believe I do them any discredit.
I cheerfully accept correction and disagreement, on this or any topic, and I’m always happy to answer questions.
Part II: Status is just a fact.
1. Status in a group
Status is a group phenomenon. Status systems exists (a) within a group, between its members; (b) between one group and another; and (c) between a group and an individual non-member.
Status between two individuals exists, but it changes constantly with the matter at hand. Even your child is your peer when it’s time to name all of the Autobots. Even your boss doesn’t own you. In indie rpg circles, individuals form working relationships, friendships, rivalries, animosities, shared enthusiasms, but mostly not hierarchical status relationships. This is true right until there’s an audience, a group; as soon as there’s an audience, its status system comes back into play.
As a member of a group, you don’t get to choose your place in its status system. You can, at most, nudge it upward or downward, by what you choose to do. You also don’t get to accurately judge your status! You can, at most, place it in a broad range, high, middle, or low.
Within a group, a member’s status rises and falls relative to other members of the group, but generally within the bounds of the group’s upper and middle ranges. If your member status falls too low, staying in the group is unpleasant, and why would you? When a group “alienates” someone, that’s someone who’s chosen to leave the group because they’re not content with their low place in the group’s status system.
Your feelings don’t reliably match your status or the status of your fellow members. It’s very possible to admire someone lower-status than yourself, or to hold in contempt someone higher-status. Being low-status in a group feels unjust. (Because it is unjust.) Choosing to leave a group because you can’t manage to raise your status in it feels like walking away in disgust, like asserting that your status is higher, not like giving up and accepting that it’s so low.
Click in for the rest. It’s long!
2013-06-11 : I think we may be back...
2013-05-29 : Jack Vance 1916-2013
Jack Vance died a couple of days ago. Bummer.
2013-05-25 : Complete Games
Hey! Jeff Russell asked me some sharp questions about The Sundered Land on G+ and I want to share them here too. They’re about what makes a game complete or not.
-For these games at least, what was your criteria for spelling things out with rules, and what to leave to players figuring out in the process of following their goals?
-In determining this, did you add rules as the need came up, or did you start with more and ruthlessly eliminate rules that seemed unneeded?
-Was this design/group of designs partially an extreme dramatization of separate subsystems and clarifying their focus?
Here’s me (very slightly edited):
I’m going to take those in reverse order.
This group of games didn’t start as subsystems, no. It started with the situations.
1. What’s a kind of high-stakes situation for people to be in? (example: guarding a caravan under attack)
2. What are the players’ opposed goals in this situation? (example: defend the caravan vs destroy it)
3. What tools do the players need in order to pursue their goals? (example: competent characters vs a vivid threat; clear directions about what to say)
4. When those tools come into contact, that’s when there needs to be a mechanically-structured conversation. What kinds of contact can the tools come into, and what kinds of conversation do they call for? (example: when the hazard’s going to attack, the Hazard player needs to give warning; when a character goes into danger, roll to decide which of 3 conversations)
So I never conceived of these as subsystems of a single game. They were always separate games that happened to share setting and design space.
I didn’t create more rules and edit down either, no. Once you have a situation and goals, they imply the shape and extent of the design, if you see. I just created the rules that the situation and goals required.
The rules you see in the games now account for about half of the rules I created. But that’s because in the design process I created rules that didn’t work, and had to throw them away and try again, not because I created extra rules.
I wonder if I can articulate this! A complete game can be just about any size. The size of a complete game depends upon the complexity of the design, not upon the completeness of the design, does that make sense? Given the same setup and goals - you’re guarding a caravan, I’m trying to destroy it - I could design a 64-page game too, if I multiplied the moving parts. It might mechanically differentiate weapons from each other, it might mechanically differentiate a flying hazard from a crawling one, it might mechanically differentiate the characters’ skills. It would take correspondingly longer to play. It wouldn’t be more complete, it would be more complicated.
2013-05-24 : A Doomed Pilgrim
2013-05-23 : Random Drawings from the Past
2013-05-21 : Game Chef 2013
2013-05-18 : Anyway vs G+: complicating factors
2013-05-16 : What I Neglected to Tell You
2013-05-15 : Quick Reader Survey
2013-05-10 : Valiant Girls
2013-05-01 : Octo: Games of Spring
2013-04-20 : A Vast & Starlit Post
2013-04-01 : The Tower Has Fallen