Archive for November, 2006

Setting Contest 2: Planet Football

November 29, 2006

So I finally have a real setting, brainstormed on the subway.

In the beginning, there were no pigs to skin. No, humanity’s ancestors had to risk their lives wrestling megafauna to the ground.

In stone coliseums dedicated to evil pagan gods, homo sapiens eventually overcame the Neanderthals by perfecting the halfback option.

Even around the last glacial maximum, when play was indefinitely suspended for several thousand years, it was clear that gridiron football was what distinguished mankind from the beasts and insects.

The existence of football proves that there is an intelligent creator.

Gridiron remains the true test of any people’s right to be fruitful and multiply.

Welcome to Planet Football, a planet much like our own, but a planet on which — from time immemorial — women and men have measured their worth by their ability to convert on a Third And Long. There are no wars, no crimes, no murders, no religious conflicts, and no blood feuds that are not enacted on some 100-yard stretch of Astroturf.

On Planet Football, gridiron is not the only thing there is, just the only thing that matters.

Setting Contest 2: Positions

November 29, 2006

Here’s a draft of the positions list. I’m not sure I’m happy with it because it may be too detailed for the kind of play I’m imagining. Does the difference between a Guard and a Tackle (OG/OT) really matter here? Maybe. Maybe not.

Offensive Line (OL)
– Center (C)
– Offensive Guards (OG)
– Offensive Tackles (OT)
– Tight End (TE)*

Offensive Backs (OB)
– Quarterback (QB)*
– Halfbacks (HB)*
– Fullback (FB)*
– Wide Receivers (WR)*

Defensive Line (DL)
– Defensive Tackles (DT)
– Nose Tackle (NT)
– Defensive Ends (DE)

Defensive Backs (DB)
– Linebackers (LB)
– Safeties (SS/FS)
– Cornerbacks (CB)

Special Teams (ST)
– Placekicker (PK)
– Punter (P)
– Kick/Punt Returner (KR/PR)
– Gunner (G)

* Eligible Receivers

I’d like to have some sort of system where you could have a player play out of position, but they’d be one die size down. For example, one of your D6 Wide Receivers or Running Backs could really be your back-up D8 Quarterback. But, when you want to run a trick play, you get your WR/RB to pass down the field to your QB or another receiver. If you want to save money for better players, you could also have your D8 Placekicker operate as a D6 Punter as well or use a Wide Receiver as a Punt Returner.

I don’t think individual players positions are going to be marked on the field. That would be WAY complicated, even if it was just one marker for all the Running Backs and another marker for Receivers. Instead, you describe the things you want to have happen and the players just materialize there or were there all along. You wanna throw a long bomb down into the endzone? Well, guess what, your Wide Receivers are there. Now we roll QB + WR against the distance and the defense’s Safeties and/or Cornerbacks to see if he can catch the pass. Maybe the defense also wants to bring in one of his linesmen and try to say that the ball was tipped at the line of scrimmage or say that a Linebacker rushed the QB while he was getting the pass off.

In this way, you don’t really call plays beforehand so much as invent them on the spot. It’s much more like watching football on TV or in a movie than actually playing football, and that’s definitely the feel I want.

Another option would be to just have general stats like Run Protection, Pass Protection, Passing, Running, Catching, etc. But I kind of like treating these like actual positions and players.

Setting Contest 2: Gridiron Gods

November 28, 2006

The mask game may still need to brew for a while. In the meantime, I may be adapting Agon (John Harper’s game of tragic Greek heroes) to handle American football. I kinda want to call the game Pigskin Requiem but I think Gridiron Gods wins by a field goal.

Today, I’ve been reading some Wikipedia articles about fantasy football to see how the proles do it. Fascinating. I can’t wait to get started.

Initial ideas:
– Each player represents an entire football team.
– You can run this GMless and take turns playing each other.
– You “buy” players to fill certain positions.
– Each position is a Skill, like Offensive Line 1d8.
– You have a limited budget with which to buy quality players.
– Positions get tired or impaired just like Skills.
– You can call a timeout or substitute players to Refresh positions.
– During timeouts and halftime, players give rousing speeches.
– A session is a football game, but includes flashbacks.
– Each player has some flags that they can throw to call penalties.
– You can spend Glory or Fate for more flags or other effects.
– Glory can get a play “reviewed” or a flag picked up.
– You can call on Fate, but it results in injuries and retirements.
– You win Glory more or less as normal, on individual plays.
– There’s a 10-section Range Grid with a marker for the ball.
– You get 4 Downs to get a touchdown or fieldgoal.
– This simulates the key plays of the drive.
– You roll dice for each down based on the play you’re running.
– Success determines which side rolls for Movement.
– Offensive success advances the ball marker down the field.
– Defensive success results in no advance or a sack.
– I’m unsure how to deal with turnovers right now, since you can get them at the spot of the play, far down the field, or in the backfield, and sometimes you get a Movement roll right after a turnover (so you can advance down the field or return it for a touchdown even).

Bonus: I want you to be able to throw a long pass down the field, get beat by the defense, and then toss one of your flags down on the table for “pass interference.” That would be hot.

Setting Contest: Developments

November 26, 2006

So one of the issues with designing Folkways is it’s really a meta-setting and not a setting, at least as it is now. There’s this outer story of tricksters working to gain release, but the content of the stories they tell is not specified, and that both 1) is really cool and 2) blows. I don’t want the game to just be a string of PTA one-shots tied together by a strange meta-fiction. There needs to be a stronger sense that these stories are related somehow, either thematically or by genre or the like. It needs to be an anthology of similar, interconnected tales — like the One Thousand Nights and a Night — not a literary journal.

I also need to emphasize the sense that the characters don’t stop being themselves when they put on masks to tell a story. If Coyote has transformed himself into a dark, brooding forest, the dark brooding forest should still act recognizably like Coyote. That’s where a great deal of the fun comes in.

Additionally, Folkways is really about the development of a working relationship and a family. It’s unmistakably an allegory for the act of roleplaying and borrows a ton from Nobilis‘ Chancels (which come almost directly from Ars Magica). Your character doesn’t necessarily like the other members of his/her troupe, but these are the people they have to work with in order to get the job done. Like family, you don’t choose them, but you’re stuck with them anyway.

So I’m thinking about being more explicit with elements of the meta-setting, creating specific leadership roles and responsibilities for each character in a troupe and maybe even starting with pre-generated characters. Maybe the game isn’t about the process that all tricksters go through. Maybe it’s about a specific group of characters who have a very unique situation imposed on them. Far too often, I suspect, we worry about creating an “adventuring class” for characters to come from when maybe it’s okay that this party of characters is totally unique in doing things the way they do.

If the characters start out with specific identities (which can, of course, evolve over time as their masks and totem do), then it seems like I can set a sort of genre for the maskers stories to be in, or at least a place to start from. I’m not sure I want to go ahead and define all the masks in advance (because that seems like it robs the players of a chance for creative expression), but maybe I’ll define a few major burdens that each character needs to work off, as examples. And then the types of masks that characters have goes pretty far to set boundaries for the types of stories that can be told.

Maybe I need to focus more on the folkways themselves and what they include. It could be that action scifi stories just aren’t a part of the folkways. Perhaps the folkways only contain stories that are really iconic and primordial, only things that would be considered folktales or folklore. But I also want the stories to have a unique flavor. I’m not sure what that flavor is yet, but I hope to stumble on it soon. Maybe if I create the starting characters and their masks, I’ll get a better sense of what that is. Maybe it’s the folklore equivalent of “mythic fantasy.”

I’m also wondering if character identity and totems should be singular, since that seems to deemphasize one of the major points of the game: that identity is a complex, plural thing, that you are different people for different purposes or audiences. Perhaps characters start out with multiple totems. Perhaps you begin play as Loki-Archne-Anansi, the multi-faced trickster spider.

I also need to figure out what XP does in a game where the only permanent statistics are your Pools.

Push 2 Proposal Guidelines

November 25, 2006

So Push vol 2 is about to get underway. Here’s the scoop.

ARTICLES

If you want to write an article for Push, I’d like you to send me a written proposal or discuss your plans with me over the phone or in chat. It doesn’t have to be fully thought-out or outlined, but I need a clear sense of your topic and how you plan to approach it.

I am willing to consider a partially finished or completed essay as a possible contribution or something that might be turned into one, but such articles will still need to be revised (sometimes heavily) and brought up to date during the writing process.

General article types include:

How We Play (Macro) – This type of article describes a large community or (multi)national style of roleplaying: Nordic larp, Jeepform, Japanese roleplay, online freeform, fanfic, MMORGs, cosplay, etc.

How We Play (Micro) – This type of article describes lessons learned and techniques developed by individual groups during play or designers during the design/play process. These could range all over the place, covering just about anything.

How We Play (Meta) – This type of article describes recent or historical developments in design and play, analyzing trends, assigning meaning, projecting into the future. Discussions need to be backed up by strong sources and examples, not just empty theorizing.

How We Play (Transcript) – This is not an article at all, but an actual transcript (edited for clarity) of real, honest-to-God actual play. Online play transcripts are the easiest, but recording and transcribing tabletop works too. Finding a way to document larp play would be terrific, but difficult. Same with MMORGs and other things.

GAMES

Push is also willing to consider a limited number of short-form game proposals. Unlike article proposals, I’ll need to see a near-playable version of the game before I can be sure that Push is interested, but running the concept by me is not a bad idea either, just to make sure you’re in the right ballpark. That may seem like a tease but, even if we don’t accept your game, you still have a neat game on your hands, so that’s not much of a loss, in my opinion. The other contributors and I will help you revise, playtest, and polish the game for publication, but the bulk of the work will still fall on you. This is mainly what I’m after:

Dream Games – These are games that might exist in an alternate universe or in dreams, if roleplaying was invented by Native American ballplayers in 1300, if rpgs were played by dolphins, if roleplaying was invented by the blind or deaf. Ideally, they should still be playable by human beings today and be relatively short, less than 50 pages.

COMMENTARY

The people who will write marginal commentary are usually specifically invited to do so. Kenneth Hite, Judd Karlman, and Claire Bickell have tentatively agreed to provide commentary for Push 2 and there will certainly be a half dozen more commentators before this is over. If you’re interested in being a commentator, feel free to let me know, but I’m really looking for a specific mix of individuals here, so don’t feel bad if you’re not quite what I need right now.

PROCESS

The following schedule can be changed if necessary, but this gives us aggressive deadlines to get us all moving.

– Article proposals due by Jan 1
– Initial Discussions and Drafts happen here
– Complete Drafts Due by Mar 1
– Final Drafts Due by April 1
– Edits/Comments by May 1
– Final Proof by Jun 1
– Print/PDF out by GenCon

PARTICIPATION

Contributors and/or commentators will be expected to participate in group brainstorming, discussions, and peer editing, which will take place on the Push message board (to be set up soon). How much you choose to participate is up to you, since I realize that different people have varying amounts of free time they can spend on this. But if you flake out on us, we may flake out on you. Fair enough?

You also have to be willing to work with your fellow contributors and especially me (the lead editor) during the editing process and make revisions to your work in a timely manner. Articles that are not keeping up with deadlines (which are ever-changing, so I will give you fair warning) may be dropped from Volume 2.

PSEUDO-COMPENSATION

Commentators get a lifetime subscription to Push. Woohoo!

Contributors get an even cut of the profits from print and PDF sales, delivered on a regular schedule (either quarterly or biannually), but completely subject to my whims. Let me be very clear that this is not actually payment for rights, because I’m intentionally avoiding legal contracts. It works like this:

• You own all rights to your work and can do whatever you like with it.

• You are donating limited print and electronic rights to reproduce your work in Push as long as the journal is around.

• I have no responsibility to pay you for anything. However…

• I do plan to send checks out to folks, as large as I can make them while still covering costs and making sure I get paid myself.

• All financial records will be completely transparent, posted on a regular basis, and available at any time by request. This includes copies sold, how much money I’m paying myself, and anything else you might want to know.

• If you decide, at some point, that you’re unhappy with the situation and no longer want your material to appear in Push, I will honor that request out of the goodness of my heart, but have no legal responsibility to do so or to compensate you for anything.

If this gets too complicated, I may have to go to real contracts and all that jazz, but I’d really rather not. This is a hobby project. I’m not doing it for the money and neither should you. However, I am selling copies of it and don’t particularly want to keep all the profits for myself, since that doesn’t seem fair.

CONTACT

You can email proposals or questions to me: jaywalt at gmail.

The Push website is http://plays-well.com/push

The Push blog is there as well, which is probably the best source for regular updates. Subscribe to the feed.

Once you’re on board in some capacity, I’ll create an email list of the contributors to keep you updated.

I think that’s all for now. Let’s get crackin’!

Push on RPGnet

November 25, 2006

Push Vol 1 got a nice mention in two recent RPGnet threads: a potential buyer asking for additional info and Phil Reed talking about how great Lulu is. Yay for us!

Now I really need to start working on Volume 2.

Something That Isn’t Pull

November 21, 2006

Until fairly recently I assumed that what Mo meant by Pull was actually something else. This something was Making Other Players Awesome (which Mo suspects might be my primary play socket).

To me, one of the primary questions about roleplaying in practice is, to use a volleyball metaphor, are you setting the ball or are you spiking it? Are you Doing Awesome Stuff or are you Setting Up Other Players To Be Awesome?

Obviously this changes from moment to moment, but I suspect that people who are good at the latter are rarer and often less recognizable, like a basketball player who has 4 points and 14 assists. Those are the kind of people you want in the GM’s chair or, better yet, as a Producer in Primetime Adventures. But they are an absolute joy to play with in any capacity because they make everyone else more awesome. And that’s the kind of player I want to be.

Now I think I need to go re-learn what Push and Pull are.

Something That Isn't Pull

November 21, 2006

Until fairly recently I assumed that what Mo meant by Pull was actually something else. This something was Making Other Players Awesome (which Mo suspects might be my primary play socket).

To me, one of the primary questions about roleplaying in practice is, to use a volleyball metaphor, are you setting the ball or are you spiking it? Are you Doing Awesome Stuff or are you Setting Up Other Players To Be Awesome?

Obviously this changes from moment to moment, but I suspect that people who are good at the latter are rarer and often less recognizable, like a basketball player who has 4 points and 14 assists. Those are the kind of people you want in the GM’s chair or, better yet, as a Producer in Primetime Adventures. But they are an absolute joy to play with in any capacity because they make everyone else more awesome. And that’s the kind of player I want to be.

Now I think I need to go re-learn what Push and Pull are.

Push Now on IPR

November 21, 2006

Thanks, Brennan. You rock!

Communities of Design

November 21, 2006

A thread on StoryGames inspired some reflections:

So we’ve talked a bit about how individual play groups are communities of practice that develop their own norms over time. Certain the same holds true for communities that resolve around things like design and publishing as well as play. The Forge is a great example, as is StoryGames itself. We don’t play with those people, but we are influenced by them in our design work and in our overall thinking about roleplaying.

The thing is, these communities aren’t really built to support game design. The people who frequent them (the Forge, StoryGames, RPGnet) aren’t really interested in real, bloody hands, words on the page, playtest-ready design work. They’re mostly coming there to talk about games, to talk about designs they may be working on or planning to work on, and, above all, to socialize with fellow roleplaying enthusiasts. That’s all well and good, but if you were hoping to build a community that was really about game design, it would have to operate pretty differently from the places where game designers already socialize.

In my experience, places that are used mostly for socialization are really bad at helping people finish projects and supporting them every step of the way. The exceptions are cases like Game Chef or similar design contests. THAT, I think, is one model of what a game design community could be like: people post actual work that they’ve done on a game and get response on actual design work, not hypothetical stuff. The energy level is high and engaged. Everybody is working alongside one another. There are concrete deadlines — often broken — but they provide structure to the process. People regularly review each other’s work and rate progress, recognizing accomplishments and talking through the next few steps.

Hmm…

Cover Draft Coming Along

November 20, 2006

I’ve done about 6-7 cover drafts of the Exalted Hack and I think I’m starting to get close. Jennifer’s color scheme is so broad and complex that it’s hard to create a background that’s gels 100%, but I’ll get there eventually. Of course, it doesn’t help that I’m partially red-green colorblind…

Here’s the most recent version, with the new title: O How Glorious Thy Resplendent Transmigration You Children of the Undying Sun, or UNCONQUERED.

Setting Contest: Masks

November 19, 2006

The sages teach that a being, at its core, is nothing but the three Pools: Vigor, Instinct, and Reason. Everything else is ephemeral, the stuff of Samsara, the stuff of the folkways.

Whether this is true or not, one thing is certain: substance and identity are created through masks. Masks create a fiction that gives order to the inherant meaninglessness of the unformed world.

A mask is a false identity formed around a Key. A fancier or more complex mask may contain more than one Key or have a few Abilities and Secrets associated with it, which become available to the wearer.

Most fictional characters are not significant enough to have developed a unique mask of their own. Instead, they are the result of an assortment of different masks which create a unique combination of features or at least an interesting one.

Over time, a group of masks, if worn regularly in the same combinations, can fuse together to form a more complex mask. Likewise, masks can also be broken up into less complex, subsidiary masks, but any shard that does not contain a core Key is not true mask, cannot be worn, and will soon dissolve into nothingness.

Aside from combining with other masks to create a shared identity, a mask can also subsume or obscure the mask beneath it. Most of the time, a masker will remove one or more masks to reveal yet more masks underneath. Some characters are covered in so many masks that they themselves might not even remember who they are underneath it all.

As a trickster, a shinchanger, or a storyteller, each member of an indebted masker troupe begins play with a countless number of masks. The masks a trickster wears on his or her body are like an enormous suit of armor, heavy, cumbersome, and obscuring any identifiable features. Additional masks must be carried on one’s back in a huge Santa Claus sack. These countless masks are the debt the trickster owes to the folkways, the weight that holds them in the cycle, unable to find release.

In order to repay their debt to the folkways and escape the endless wheel, a trickster must let go of all their masks and leave them behind. Once they have done this, they Transcend to another realm. You let go of a mask by fulfilling certain conditions required by the Key at the mask’s core. These conditions are called the Buyoff. Masks that are bought off are not simply removed and placed in your sack (as usual), they are reabsorbed into the folkways and can never be used again.

To better facilitate communication amongst themselves, each tricker carries one or more totemic masks which represent their preferred identities, often ones they have worn countless times over the centuries. For example, the masker we know as Scheherazade may take on many other identities in many other stories, but she always returns to being Scheherazade, her totem mask, because it holds special meaning for her. When conversing with her fellow maskers, Scheherazade is the mask she wears.

Of course, when the time comes to leave the cycle behind, a trickster’s totemic masks are often the final and most difficult masks to release into the folkways.

In order to fulfill a mask’s Buyoff condition, one has to enter the folkways and make use of the mask in a story. This is the purgatory that the tricksters are confined to: they must work together to tell stories with the masks that they have, fulfilling the Buyoff conditions so that one mask after another can be released into the folkways, gradually earning their freedom.