Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Muppets and no Sausage Rolls - I read Electric Bastionland - DRUNK


Behold, I hath read (much of) Chris McDowalls Electric Bastionland and tweeted about it, often while drinking. Below you will find my often-incisive analysis and commentary while my brain rockets back and forth between alohol and the effects of antidpressants.

(I left the mis-spellings and insanity in. Headings and sub-headings added by me.)



We Begin


Ok I'm gonna drink and read Chri's Electric Bastionland and tweet it now

Jealousy




everyone has better design skills than me

"Other game say Gamesmaster, Referee or MC but this is Bastion and we do things differently" -

differently, even to the last version of this game, in an acceleration of the rule that every rpg deign head must ritually kill gary in their mind by renaming the DM into something new to symbolise their new dawn



A Starting Party


a sandwich is SIX POUNDS - like, actually that is possible, like an M&S sandwich

Huh so there is starting group debt and even a starting Belloq rival figure with more hit PROTECTION (not points) than you - so the game is very absolutely and directly about doing this particular thing right now

and you also have a failed career

and dying adds to the groups debt - so if you die, even doing something heroic and useful to the group and Basionland as a whole, you are still fucking the rest of the group and your own future self

there is something extremely british and of its generation about the quiet background sadism of that concept

so you start with lamps and batteries, climbnig and camping equipment and food and water - presumably because its boring getting those things

one other thing you might add in - and this comes of gaming with the Fallen Demiurge whos name shall not be spoken - is in a city game no one ever has a car to start with - so I would add in, considering the ambient britishness - a bus pass or family ticket

So in other versions of ItO the crapness of your stats got you better stuff, and good stats got you rubbish stuff - a concept I enjoyed - is that still the case here? For it seems not..



Chris Betrays Gaming


multiple attackers are NERFED - no longer do numbers count for all, and one man can indeed hold off an army

what will this mean for adventuring

no doubt much flop sweat was dropped by Chris over this arguably non-diagetic rule!

HAS CHRIS MCDOWALL BETRAYED GAMING?

LIKE WHEN THAT D&D RUYLESET HAD DAMAGE ON A MISS?

THE JURY IS OUT

AND IS ALSO ME

it makes EB an essentially interpersonal adventure-world and sets a hard - or flattened curve limit, on tactical thinking

so - big ass rooftop ambushes etc or hiring a company of dudes - all flattened, both against the players and if they try to use those methods

a sandwich and a drink gets your hp back but riskes a random encounter- curiously specific



You Will Play This Game The Way Chris Says


Also - 1st mention of Greggs


fuck Electric Bastionland is like being kicked out of your parents house in your 20s and trying to survive off your overdraft while sleeping on a friends couch and begging for a job in Greggs

carryig too much shit reduces your hp to zero! Ruthless!

And effective

rules here are bascially chris staring at you thru the page & saying "the game is not _about_ that"

so there is no 'persuasion' rules - just save CHA to avoid a *negative* reaction and to *stop* your peons running off

that still doesn't get people to *do* things for you - that is all down to gameplay

ah so in fact one map cannot hold off an army as they would be a detachment and roll a D12, while he would roll a d4

HOWEVER

one man could popssibly hold off an armies worth of INDIVIDUALS provided they do not fight as a detachment

'vehicles take no damage for running over soft targets like people' - dark, since everything else is an exchange of risk - time for some hit and runs!



A Complex Relationship with Risk


SCARS - what are scars in EB? Are they gud?

They are a reflection of the creators complex relationship with risk and its role in gaming

you get one if you go to EXACTLY 0hp

not a likely event

and if you get one, there can be good and bad effects (though since the standard response is death, any intermission of chance is 'good'so we may account scars as mercy if we wish

scars are a kind of high risk high reward routlette game you get accesss to for being damaged to juuuust the right degree but not dying

they are interesting enough that I wuold have got rid of the 'death at 0 hp rule, and just made the damage suffered a modifier on an extended

Exemple of play has differing corridors having differeing smells and winds - an adaptation to the generational praxis of high resources but limited time - corridors only gain meaning thru context which the modern gamer may not have time to create and so they must breathe and live

example of play - everything broken down into either/or risk decisons - the essential binary of meaning creation

say w your friends, or run away? fight, or flee? risk w reward or safety with life - the essential dilemma of entropy bound forms

hmm, no random roll for targets in multiple pc situations - a ruthless and heavy burden on the DM - orr CONDUCTER

and classic mcdowall fair declaraion of in-world risks, even if that level of perception not necessarily diagetically justified - a very prodestant mind. All the information will be given to you and you will decide, and FACE THE CONSEQUENCES.

curious that we can creat nothing complex without embedding our perception of morality into it

ok a new page has happened

ok weapons are basically

- how much damage d6, d8, d10, d12
- is it bulky (can't carry too much
- does it do BLAST (and so harm detachments)

and thats the deal



THA ART


lol Alecs art has started to come in and the text is so Gen-X british and the art so US Zoomer/Millenial that the combo makes a whole new thing

Old ItO was a lot like watching a british sitcom from the 70s, a halrold pinter televised play or an episode of Dr Who -

what will the asethtic of this version be??

'Board' meaning somewhere to sleep - costs £10. More than the d6£ you start with - so you better get working day one

fuck Electric Bastionland is like being kicked out of your parents house in your 20s and trying to survive off your overdraft while sleeping on a friends couch and begging for a job in Greggs

also - why is Greggs not in this Chris? UKFAIL

Hospital and Leasure are free, but slow - spending money only speeds them up

taking an 'improvement course' lets you re-roll a stat, but you have to keep it whatever - an accurate representaion of british education system

'luxuries ' include a medal ceremony for yourself, a sanctioned duel, a legitimate funeral (10k, really you should be leaving at least 1k for your inheritor to clear the expense of your death) and a radio station

ahhh so he has dealt w the transport issue - public transport is available with sliding scales for distance




A NEW THREAD BEGINS!




OK new thread as we are on to 'failed careers'  -- which aaaare about 215 pages of this 333 page book

answering the question of how do you turn a rulselight system into a fucntional money making product in our global times

answer - fill it with art and make char gen also worldbuilding and make there be  a LOT of it

so this is also our map to Electric Bastionland, through the failed careers of its economy and society

which are also options

(look out for a shit neutered version of this in D&D 5E(b) <<<< A PREDICTION

£10,000 is the group debt - so game assumes that by the time you have done enough shit to make that, you will have embedded yourself in the world and caused enough trouble to be essentially self-generating adventure machines



The Mysteries of Publishing Exposed!


Interesting that this is *not quite* black and white

for anyone who doesn't do pblishing - B&W is much cheaper, and so the profit margins are highter

so every creator notices this and thinks "wait, I'll just do B&W art w high quality, charge the same and make a mint"

BUT

then they think - "hey this thing is going well... maybeoooone colour wouldn't hurt.. just one..."

and then you end up w a full colour book

those are the beans which I just spilled



Cultural Background


so from one career we have sci-fi, sci-fantasy, terry gilliam, touch of 40k, edge of dr who

terry prachett - a 'loot office'

o there is some of the old school ItO evening out of capacities thgrough the money and hp system - w lower money & hp granting cooler stuff and higher worse etc

3. Trench Conscript. What was your role?

£2 -Recon. Take paints and a portable canvas.

So for anyone who did NOT grow up wathing british TV in the 80's/90's









So while up to now was lite sci-fi and Blackadder, this Dead-Shoresman is pure Gaiman. Not only are you back from the dead, but no-one believes you.

So there's this invisible backwash of generall 'oddness' (hook in the title) that flows through market towns at night, moterway service stations, the BBC at odd times




and EB is right slam in the centre of that



I Complain about 'Hipsters'


This book will be popular w hipsters and people who care about 'design' because its easy to read, text tlight and has good art

it is worth caring about for other reasons

I am just making it clear that other, more attractive and succesful, but shallower people, will enjoy this for the WRONG REASONS =and they need to be jidged for that

"Threatening Stave - has no fucntion but glows and vibrates in a way that suggests that it could be used for distributing extreme pain"


what can we say about art?

So - first ItO felt VERY british, 19tC industrial in aesthetic

Here the people and style are clearly not that - more idk definitely US, maybe futuristic/current - from a different social milueax

& sadder - more human - but also more beautiful

definitely the people I saw walking around the hipster area of toronto - thin, golde, multi-ethnic, rather than the dense potato people I know from my youth and environment - 1 of which I am

so for me there is a very slight tension between the art & text

but not necessarily for the first reader, for whome the whole will fall a new whole <<< PARTICULARLY BRILLIANT PHRASING HERE PATRICK, THAT'S HOW YOU GET THOSE SILVER ENNIES



I gotta stop because its nearly 10 heere and I drank everything in the room

got up to page 37 though, so you no i did an in-depth reaed

back tomorrow maybe?




More Cultural Influences



K I bought more cider and am back to read Chris McDowalls Electric Bastionland again

'Verminator' gets a combination of Cronenberg castoffs

'Lost Expeditioneer' is in debt to the Elephant Reinbursment House, which is a post-singularity sci-fi story right there

Wall-Born more 'infinite city' vibes and more of a China Mieville feel

Cities demorph and arrange themselves neatly for game designers shaping space w random generators and tables - maybe because they are already organised on human-useful lines anyway - as much information as arrangments in space

'shoe throwing' - thats not an object Chris, you have broken your own rules. Inspired by Austin Powers or that guy who shoes George Bush?

All the places Aliens can come from are worse than Bastion. makes sense I guess.

BONE MAGNET! My old nemesis!

The next drink is for Chris for having to come up with 1200 items and elements

"Dog rifle" is one of those fragments which tells a.. _tail_..

Face with tears of joyFace with tears of joyRolling on the floor laughing  im dying inside

'Roadside Picnic' is probably the best tonal match for the technology. Reality-bending, semi-useful, not understood, often one-shot and clearly not meant to be used for the thing it is being used for. Humanity as scavenger.



This definitely feels more like 'Dark Toronto' more than decayed England.

(I have been outside the UK a handful of times in my adult life so my field of reference may be limited)

In the absence of a frontier or a singular unnatural incursion, the adventure takes place 'in between' islands of various elements of order which, if seen from afar, could be mistaken for a whole

See the book 'the insurgent archipelago' which was about no matter how dominant modernity becomes, its very complexity keeps creating new webs and cracks and elisions of chaos betwixt its endlessly moving parts

There is always a little microdrama or a little worldbuilding in the back of Alecs art

main figure, often a crowd, often a single individual that doesn't quite fit, often crossing eyelines, and something in the background, a wreck, a cable car

so depending on what PCs you roll in EB, you could be playing a Neil Gaiman urban fantasy game, a near future China Mieveille sci-fantasy, straight sci-fi or just victorian social drama

Urchin pack - think Arnold was the 1st person to have this idea. I always wanted to use it in a Frostgrave RPG

Classes
Wizard - magic & in charge but can take no action
Merc Company - as in the whole company, can do stuff but no authoity or money
Dog - is a dog, can smell. A good dog.
Barbarian etc - more like standard characters



The advert and the celestial sphere is very "Electric Bastionland", whatever that is



I fully support this movement! #HumanityFirst


If warhammer has taught me anything its that if you really love humanity, you need to kill anything that isn't human

and most of the things that are - because they are getting it wrong




Char Gen is also NPG gen, society gen, plot gen, rival gen and item gen

efficient

'Masked Horrorist' is very Ramsey Campbell, so we can add that to the stew I guess

Chris you give away being able to see in the dark too easily, have I taught you *nothing*?

of course you can basically hack your own 'bastionland' by making maybe 20 character gen packages of a particular tone or diagetic implication

oh gooood people are going to do that - they are going to release _zines_

if you imagine Electric Bastionland as a real place, life there is largely about intuiting the use and meaning of any one of a million potentially powerful but *singular* items, talents or situations, encountered near-randomly in the mosaic of order



The Absence of Moral Chaos - a personal failing in Chris McDowall????


There is no moral chaos is the decision matrix of EB. Risks may be unfair but they are always signalled. It's rare you make a choice without knowing the consequences. My impression is that mad streaks of luck or doom are not an intended part of the game.

Which is a major character difference between Chris and I

It does take some balls to just say "Yes there are Muppets in this"

"They are not aliens or androids. They are Muppets. And they even sometimes act like you are in a Muppets Movie"

But "Monstrosities" are still an element and you can recognise immediately that they are monsters, even if verbal and self aware. This does seem to nudge slightly against the moral axis of much of the rest of the book.

Hmm Chris and his cult of information again.

Information is not the be all and end all Chris! If we never have to gamble with limited, poor or deceptive information then ARE WE NOT MACHINES?

I skipped a lot of the failed careers. May go back to them later

"If you get into the habit of giving the right amount of information to your players, they have more agency in their decisions, and are less likely to be unpleasantly shocked by the consequences of those choices.'

No. Negative affect, boredom, frustration and *some degree* of unknown unfairness are vital and necessary organs of FREEDOM.

These advices are good but they cannot be held to be absolutely true

If I am a contrarian, what of it. I drove to that forest to test my eyes! I was acting legally and ethically!

I have been drinking yes




heuristics of efficiency


It's tomorrow now

Reading this book on vision confirms that evolution is as obsessed as Chris McDowall with cognitive offload, heuristics of efficiency and more minimising time on unnecessary decisions

So the obverse of Chris's risk/reward hypertransparency is the severity of impact once the choice is made

No "minor" fuckups and few "learning" mistakes? Is that how it actually plays over time?

Ah ha! "Like your Tomb of Horrors style deathtrap dungeon might be full of hidden traps that don't announce themselves, but you're breaking that rule as a specific exception for this particular dungeon"

A paradox of performed secrecy in films is that the actor (& film) communicate simultaneously to the audience that they are lying &/or keeping a secret and..

to other characters in that fiction that they are telling the truth.

A dual signal

So in EBlnd can there be *real* geographic secrets? Like a secret door?

*People* can keep secrets, but are not likely to have more than one, if at all

But can there be a secret place which does not communicate it's existence

but which can still be discovered?



The doctrine of information and risk and the iteration of the game world may interact strangely over time to produce unpredictable cognitive lacunae of particular types

Maybe



giant ants and the attention economy


Look giant ants are not uninteresting as a concept - they are basically the Borg - but, ants

The city as starting area seems to be as common a concept to whatever the current gen is as the wilderness was to whatever older gens were

The difference may lie partially in the shift in the attention economy and social groupings from the 70s to now

70s issue I imagine being more like " how do I spend these extra cognitive hours in a world without screens and internet" and "what do I do w my geographically close sustained friend group for 6 hours'

Modern problem being more like "how do I keep their attention for maybe 3 hours max" and "how do I adapt the game to a shifting attendance group and online interaction"

The city can present a flowing matrix of challenge, information and adaptation more easily than the imagined wilderness.  << I SAID ALMOST EXACTLY THE SAME THING ABOVE BUT I WAS DRINKING AND FORGOT I SAID IT

Characters/Players can be brought in and out more easily too.

Amusingly, if PCs and NPCs have actual jobs in the imagined world, that explains why they weren't present at the game or scene - they were at work.

In the next edition Failed Careers might be "Unstable Careers" or "Gig Economy Trap Careers"

Future Bastionland would definitely have twitter in it

"9. Dark clothes, lone wolf, won't work with any other hirelings. Thinks they're so cool." - Chris I feel attacked by this remark. Neutral face

Cosmic Angels - are these 40k Primarchs?

So you can have Kermit the Frog and a Primarch in the same world?



Lack of Ghosts


Actually if this was REAL British Paracosm role playing it would have more ghosts in it CHRIS

Fuck you could do a Gerry Anderson "Supermarionation" source book for EB. Hidden humanoid mockeries rocketing forth to save Bastionland in bright primary vehicles

Have fun trying to work out which internet personalities these are based on










A Mass Coffin Auction does sound like fun.

The fact that cremation doesn't seem to exist in this megacity pretty much guarantees a gothic logistical structure of trains and necropoli.

The Bureaucrolabyrinth is good. Advancing d20 rolls remind me of Gardens of Ynn

Alien Kung Fu meta dice games - lol I would probably have based the whole game around these

Saturday, 23 May 2020

Shintobox - a failed idea?

This is a post about a concept I was developing for 'Soft D&D'.

It’s an idea which I have found does not quite pan-out. I couldn't bring it to a reasonable conclusion. Right now I'm not sure if I couldn't get it right because I'm tired and out of ideas or if just the idea itself is bad.





WHAT I INTENDED TO DO HERE


Ok so my intention with this is to help create a world in which SOFT D&D can be played.

Specifically -

- to create a world of spirits and natural forces.
- to make that method of creation a GENERATOR
- to make it modular so the parts can be swapped out for different cultures.
- to be easy to understand.
- to be scalable, so you can create the potentials behind the whole world, and narrow those down to how they effect one particular place and social situation, but also if you then go on to explore the world in greater detail - it will expand and still work.

My central concept here is a combination of the Theology of Glorantha, vague memories of Ghibli films and the personified word-aspects of The Faerie Queene (you will probably have a general sense of the 'Renaissance Fictionverse from Gaimans 'Sandman').

We imagine the powers that rule the world as personified beings, or at least potentially personified - they have a name, a coherent personality and they can appear in a form with which you can communicate. So it’s an animist world in a sense, but like Glorantha - everything is somebodies child.

This sounds more complex than it is.

Basic idea - natural things are made up of families and these families sometimes fight, and sometimes co-operate and have complex relationships with each other.

So - when you get down to the level at which I imagine the game to be played. The local woods, the local stream, those both have 'personalities', and 'parents' and those families interrelate in some way.






THE IMPORTANCE OF A LACK OF INFORMATION


Not everyone in the imagined world knows this stuff. Many know a little, or have incorrect facts which they deeply believe. Not all of it CAN be known. Different branches have different opinions on what is true and what things mean. Not all of this is meant to be discovered by the PCs, the game is not necessarily about finding these things out.

This structure exists - to provide structure, to provide the context for a world that CAN be investigated and that CAN be understood, at least partially so that investigation, and growing understanding of the game world - actually work in a real way. Not just - generating new information when someone passes an investigate roll.

As the PCs gradually build up knowledge of the world, this knowledge actually pans out and helps them decide what to do. So when new characters and new elements are introduced or discovered, they 'make sense' - they are integrated into the world structure in a way that is coherent.

Maybe you can call this a 'spiritual sandbox' or a 'theological sandbox' or a 'shintobox' - probably that last one





A SIMPLIFIED SHINTOBOX - THE TWIN TREES METHOD

I'm imagining this as being drawn on a page, say an A4 page because almost everyone has a blank A4 page handy.

Instead of 'family trees' going *down* the page, they will go *up* because I feel like this makes more intuitive sense and is simpler to develop. This way, you can say - there are two magical families which shape the local area and the base of each tree is a particular marriage of these magical beings.

As the trees grow - the branches of the families meet - interact, and have relationships with each other sometimes they are friends, sometimes they stay apart and sometimes they really hate each other.

The players village is held in the branches of these trees, right near the top, or in the middle - where the most branches mesh.

(In fact the measurable parts of these trees for now would be those branches that 'go towards each other' and meet and interact).






EXPANDING THIS FOR LATER DEVELOPMENT


These 'trees' can be expanded in any direction.

The current 'map' is only meant to show those elements and aspects which are closest to the immediate human lifeworld, easiest to understand, most likely to be encountered and have the greatest influences on the starting village.


EXPANDING 'DOWN' 


In concept this means going back in time, to the creation of the world, the 'trunks' or 'roots are actually just branches of deeper older trees.


EXPANDING 'OUT'


You can add more trees as you go on, either from side to side or at the tops and bottoms of the page and then draw 'larger scale' maps of how they interrelate.


EXPANDING 'UP' 


Ok this is some weird shit, but maybe this would mean going into much deeper detail about particular places?
Granularity, like this particular nymph of this particular pond etc etc.






RULES


When 'branches' meet - a few things can happen. they can 'marry' and produce offspring, they can touch, meaning they know each other, maybe they are friends or even don't like each other, but whatever they are doing its not producing offspring. or they can fight - or be in conflict - they are actively trying to stop each other. (or if you want to get tiered, they can produce offspring and also be in conflict).

This sounds insane but maybe it might work [future Patrick here from the end of this process - it did not].

Also - MODUALRITY

Assuming we are beginning with the 'imagine an environment' deal we can include descriptions, pictures and keywords for many different global environments. So you can start with the classic pseudo-western 'fantasy' environment, basically a pastiche of pretend middle-ages with land life and seasons more like north America.

But people from any environment and legendarium can create their own 'patches' or 'zines' for their own seasons, environment, cultures and likely legendary beings etc

Way this is meant to work is a three-pronged combination into a hex map or drawn map.




ONE - The Village - as much a social matrix as a physical one. Human-level interactions.

TWO - The Shintobox - the relations of natural forces and elements.

THREE - The Map - shouldn't be too hard to fill in from the Shintobox.







OK BUT CAN I ACTUALLY MAKE A SIMPLIFIED EXAMPLE SHINTOBOX THOUGH??


How the fuck do I do this?

do I use two trees or three?

ok lets keep it simple -  do two trees

FIRST - Imagine a place and an environment

like a land, somewhere you are familiar with, or that you can imagine deeply, created or real. Somewhere where you can imagine the plants, wind, animals, people, rivers, smells, sounds. What it feels like to be there.

THEN - imagine the two, biggest, oldest strongest and most important influences on that place.

So right now I'm imagining the coast of Cumbria, where I grew up. That one is pretty simple. It's a flat, narrow fertile plain. On one side are the fells, the mountains of Cumbria, steep, grey ,scree-sided, covered with heather and sheep, with tarns and narrow tracks and slices of mountain and black lakes hidden.

On the other side is the Irish Sea- shifting in colours like the sky, rippling with like a bed of jewels in summer, black and heavy as wet slate in winter. Where storms come from.

In that part of Cumbria - all the trees lean to one side, like letter Z s. The wind has blown them all since they started to grow and now they grow in the direction of the wind from the sea even when that wind is not there.

So - to cut it short. The two most important things in that area are the Mountains and the Sea.

Those are the roots of our two trees. The oldest strongest things - King Stone and Queen Sea.



WHAT DO I DO NEXT?


Think I need to make a list of all the natural elements  which will make up the immediate play space.

The rivers
the beach
Individual mountains
smaller hills
individual forests
moors
streams
caves
deer
owls
cows
tarns
lakes
rain
storms
the sun
fish
mines
birds

So the dominant (biggest, oldest, most singular) of these seems to be;

Rain - creator of rivers.
Scafell - the tallest mountain.
Fish.
Birds.
Caves.


>>>> after some time fucking about with a sheet of A4 and some coloured pens

>>>> and completely losing track of what I was doing and how it might work



I DON'T THINK I CAN REALLY


Or not a simple systematisable one

I think maybe the best way it to approach it from the 'other end' and to start with the village and work out from there?

Sometimes I look again at these things and I realise there’s a simple way.

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Char Gen for SOFT D&D

Part of a series now I guess;
Original Concept for Soft D&D 

Today's liberally-stolen-without-asking images are from

Ryota Murayama / Ovopack


I didn't ask to use these so go over there, give them some traffic and re-tweet or whatever so I can feel better.

Also -if anyone wants to give this a try with real children, or just generally, let me know.







MAKING SOMEONE


Making a character is like meeting someone new

Who will you meet? Who will you be?



Roll a die, once for each line.

When you roll an even number, pick the quality on the left and write that down.

When you roll an odd number, pick the one on the right and write that down.

Then roll the die one more time to see how tough you area and write that down.


Even Number                                                  Odd Number


YOUNG or OLD


SLOW or FAST


BIG or SMALL


NOTICE or ACT


THINK or FEEL


COURTEOUS or BOLD


TOUGH POINTS - 


This is not really 'fair', but its not meant to be. 'Fair' isn't interesting and the game is meant to be interesting. The point isn't to have the 'best' character, but to have a character you are interested in, someone where you want to see what they do and hear what they might say.



Its always good to be fast, you would think.

To be big or small - we might think that its better to be big, but there are many situations where it is not.

To Notice, or to Act. Those who notice will always ask questions before they act. Those who act will always act before they ask questions. You might think its better to notice things, but a group of people who only notice and never act is so dull its like falling asleep.

Think or Feel. Those who think more than they feel will have learned more from books and will remember more of what they have learned. They will know more about the world, its history, and all the details of the people and things in it. When faced with a problem they will probably stop and try to work it out.

Someone who thinks a lot might ask a lot of questions about problems about what they remember about something or what their character knows and about details.

someone who feels may well have done more. They likely did not sit around thinking about details but they had strong emotions, maybe good ones like love, honour or empathy, maybe darker ones like anger or fear.

Most probably they have both.

These people might ask a lot about what other characters are feeling, or what it seems like they are feeling, about why they do things and why they want things and about what it feels like to meet people, do things and go places.

Those who feel more than they think will often have a much more interesting life. They want more things, more powerfully. They have STRONG MOTIVES.

Those who are courteous are calm and sensitive to the needs of others. They do not wish to cause offence and will try to find the right way to act.

Those who are bold usually think they know the right way to act; it is whatever they are doing RIGHT NOW! They present themselves to others and the world as if the world should be very pleased to seem them.

Or perhaps they just don't care if the world likes them or not? Regardless - HERE THEY ARE.

Toughness keeps you in the game.

When you run out of Toughness, you have to stop playing unless someone else helps you.

You can get Toughness a few ways, by eating, resting, healing and helping each other. You can sometimes get it just by growing old, though that takes time.

Someone can be physically tough; hard and resistant. They can also be mentally and emotionally tough.






There are two more things you need, a THING and a NAME.

If you have a good idea what kind of person this is, give them a name now.

Or, wait till they have a THING.

Once they have one, look at all their qualities and think about who they are and why they might be like this, then give them a simple name you think fits.

It doesn't need to be a clever name. In fact its better if you decide quickly and move on to play.






THINGS


Everybody gets one THING. Go round the group of players. There are five Types of thing;

One person gets something from their home.

One person gets something useful.

One person gets a book.

One person gets something magical.

One person gets a pet.

If there are more people left then start again, but don't choose two of any type until each type has been chosen twice and don't choose three of any type until each type has been chosen twice




THINGS FROM YOUR HOME


1. A portable set of cooking equipment.
2. A mop which can clean anything, and a bucket which helps.
3. A full sewing and knitting set.
4. A box of costumes.
5. A musical instrument, which you play well.
6. Pots of paint.
7. Glue - its strong stuff!
8. A pouch of gold coins.

Did you ask before you took this thing? Probably you should have....




USEFUL THINGS


1. A long rope, with a hook at one end.
2. A hand catapult and a stupendous variety of marble-sized objects which you have  collected.
3. An exceedingly black cloak - it makes you look VERY DRAMATIC and is almost impossible to see in shadow. It can cover two people.
4. A collapsible extending brass 'grabber' of up to TWENTY METERS RANGE!
5. An accurate hand-drawn map of the area. Perhaps the only one.
6. A flip-open metal box which produces a small flame every time.
7. A sturdy Hurricane lantern.
8. A very loud ear-piercing whistle.





BOOKS


1. A book of medicine. Helps you perform first aid, identify ailments and breaks down the ingredients and preparation of herbal remedies. (Though it doesn't tell you where to find the herbs).

2. A book of plants and fungi. This helps you identify any plant, telling you which are edible, poisonous, and which are useful for different things. It also gives directions about which places certain plants might grow.

3. A book of etiquette and manners - good for ALL situations. This book tells you the best way to talk to anyone or anything, and warns you ahead of time what might upset or anger them. If you read from it carefully each day you will be very courteous, and be able to instruct others to be too. (They do not always appreciate your instruction.)

4. A book of creatures. Helps you identify any creature and tells you about its habits and nature. Also helps you work out what creatures might be in a certain environment, and what places to find certain creatures.

5. A book of History. This book tells you a great deal about what has happened in the past. If you want to know why things are a certain way, the answer can often be found within.

6. A book of Origami. (With scissors and paper). This tells you how to make paper creatures, people, plants, animals, anything at all. If you have enough paper and enough time you can make things which seem so real, others will mistake them for the real thing.

7. A book of Alchemy. Tells you how to turn one substance into another. Any substance be turned into anything else, except that the process is often so expensive and difficult, and takes so much time and so many special ingredients that its often not worth it. Plus you often go bonkers off the fumes

8. A book of Spells. HA HA HA FINALLY! TIME TO GO MAD WITH POWER! (in the imagined game every spell book should be a themed pocketmod with a tight list of non-combat, closely themed spells in the Brendan Strejak 'leveless' style, with complex casting conditions, particular ingredients and challenging side effects.)







MAGIC THINGS


1. A one syllable compass - this points the way to something described by a word you choose, but it has to be a one-syllable word, and it always points to the closest version of it.

2. A mansion tent. On the outside just a tent, but on the inside is a huge spooky fabric mansion with cloth butlers and cloth cooks. It’s safe and warm but you have to be exquisitely polite to all the cloth people or they flip out and expel you.

3. A miniaturising ring - makes you the size of a mouse when worn.

4. A magical sock which gives you the ability to always win at paper-scissors-stone. Somewhere out there is the anti-sock, which makes you always lose at paper-scissors-stone. Until it is found, this burden is yours to bear.

5. A spool of unbreakable thread.

6. A wolf whistle -  whistle which when you blow through it, can make the sound of any animal.

7. A model ship which, if placed in water - doesn't grow, instead you all shrink down to its size as you step on to it.

8. A mirror which always shows the truth of what it sees.

9. Paired crab lockets, two people who wear them will always be able to hold onto each other, nothing can break their grip on one another.

10. INDESTRUCTIBLE BOOTS.






PETS


A loyal and intelligent, but somewhat sardonic pig.

A blue-striped tiger, but its old, incredibly lazy and a coward.

A clever crow, good at solving problems but likes to steal.

An unemployed uncle who can turn into a horse - he can help you but he is pretty lazy and hard to get out of the house. (Despite the fact he has nothing better to do). Arguably not a pet.

A friendly foldable dog - only two dimensional, don't leave them out in the rain
but you can fold em up, or roll them up, slide them under doors, they don't seem to mind.

A very fluffy sheep which picks up random odds and ends that get stuck in its wool. Its very warm and comfortable.

A troublesome monkey.

A large beetle, slow but big enough for everyone to ride on.

A cow of mysterious, and so far, unknown, utility.

A cat which can see magic, but which does not deeply consider your nee.

A baby elephant - you have no idea what to do with it once it grows.

A goose, loyal to nothing, feared by all. Is the goose with you, or are you simply accompning the goose?






Here's those deets again;

(stolen) Art by..

Ryota Murayama / Ovopack


Saturday, 16 May 2020

DCO - Remastered Pre-Orders are Open


Deep Carbon Observatory is being printed now.

Should be delivered to Spiral Galaxy Games within two weeks.

Spiral Galaxy say they expect to start shipping out in the week of the 15th of June.

SO - I am opening pre-orders for the book

Click the text or images below to...

Pre-Order the Hardcopy Book



Deep Carbon Observatory - REMASTERED



ANDGo to the False Machine PDF site
TO



Download the Free Maps Pack


They are free to all!
You all complained about the maps, well here you go.
And here are Dirks original versions if you want to use those.






Freely Grasp the FEAST OF BUKAKO



MAGIC!
All the spells mentioned in Deep Carbon Observatory
in fresh level-less form!
By Brendan S of Necropraxis!






Buy the new PDF




We got bookmarks, layers so you can turn the maps & images on and off
no DRM
interlinking throughout
and we compressed it to make it manageable.


OR



If you prefer 'DCO-Lite' you can download this for free
or whatever you think its worth.

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Soft-Ass D&D

(Part of a series now I guess;
Char Gen for Soft D&D )

I'm old now and I'm getting soft. Recently I've been making consistently brilliant strategic decisions in Ryuutama with Noisms. I really liked the idea of Ryuutama and the promise the game seemed to make with its art and with the idea of play it presented, much as, on picking up Mouse Guard, I really liked the idea of what that game is about.

In both cases I found the actual play (in Ryuutama) and what I perceived as play (in Mouse Guard, which I never actually ran) as being weirdly abstract and discomforting.

Ryuutama feels like quite a displaced 'dual pathway' system. Roll some dice for your abstract properties. Ok now do some roleplaying as instructed to in the text. Ok now roll some dice.

A lot of the ways you can usefully affect dice rolling are through thinking about logistics ahead of time? which seems odd to me for the game Ryuutama was presenting itself as.

Anyway; since our Ryuutama game essentially devolved into Old School D&D anyway, I started thinking about how you could alter the old school D&D rules and assumptions to produce a fundamentally different character of play.

Here followeth my schemes;

(All of these illustrations are by Varguy - who does pictures I like which seems like they come from nonexistant Ghibli films.)

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Look at that fuckin angry toadstool!



GHIBLI-ESQUE REACTION ROLLS


The primary and simplest one was the replacement of the standard reaction table with something with a more complex and subtle arrangement of social and emotional interactions.

Scrap once said that in my Adventures there was no real dividing line between Monsters and NPC's, which I think is largely true, and which I think is a better way of going about things in general. I've even started to use the word 'agents' in my head at least, when thinking about these things.

The basic table is very old school - its essentially about how much of a threat something is going to be to you *right now*, and if it isn't a threat then the nature of the interaction is blank and totally open, depending entirely on the predilections of the DM & players.

Classic Monster Reaction Roll

2 or less - Hostile, attacks
3-5 - Unfriendly, may attack
6-8 - Neutral, uncertain
9-11 - Indifferent, uninterested
12+ - Friendly, helpful

(OK I was at least partly wrong, this is much less tilted towards violence than I was half-remembering.)



Ghibli-esque Monster Reaction Roll


2 or less - Angry.
3-4 - Deceptive/Manipulative.
5-6 - Upset/Sad.
7-8 - Curious.
9-10 - Social.
11 - Impressed.
12+ - Joyous, brimming over.


All except 'Sad' are meant to provide an immediate relationship with the PCs

Then to add complexity - throw in ANOTHER COLUMN.

I suppose this would actually end up somewhat awkward if you were rolling two sets of 2d6, so lets amend it so you are rolling 2 d12. After all, with a low assumption of immediate conflict, the necessity of a flat curve which reduces the likelihood of a combat encounter is less important.

So; roll 2 d12s and read right to left as they land

Right - This person is;

1 - Angry!
2-3 - Deceptive/Manipulative.
4-5 - Upset/Sad.
6-8 - Busy/Working.
9-10 - Seeking social contact.
11 - Impressed.
12+ - Joyous!

Left - Because of..

1 - An environmental change.
2-3 - Social or cultural change.
4-5 - Altered close relationship.
6-8 - Another agent or group.
9-10 - An object, Treasure or resource they have or want.
11 - A magical effect.
12+ - The PCs.






Hmm, perhaps I was inadvertently ripping off this Joseph Manola post?


LANGUAGES


Curiosity I've found about D&D is that languages *as they work in real life, don't really work well, unless you are in a city-like environment where there are many different languages spoken in a small space across multiple levels of society, meaning each language presents extra problem-solving opportunities, but if you lack that language, as its a city, there are usually ways around the problem.

In most D&D, if the majority of the party don't understand the local language, that goes out the window after a few sessions of play.

So in Ru-D&D, extra languages let you speak to unusual aspects of the world and you can spend the extra ones you get in character generation in the following way;

1 language - spend one to speak to a particular kind of vertebrae.

2 languages - spend two to speak to a particular broadly defined animal-type, like birds or four-footed animals.

3 language - spend three to speak to certain plants, rocks or limited natural phenomena, or the spirits which inhabit them. This always requires some complex diegetic expenditure of time or resources and tends to make the speaker somewhat odd.



-------------------------------------------------------------

NO WEAPONS


This sounds completely insane in any diegetic sense but I think it might work.

Game starts - no PC has a weapon. Maybe someone has a walking staff.

No-one around them has a weapon. Maybe one old Adventurer in the village has an old sword they keep hung up on the wall. The village only needs one because that's how unlikely violence is. The place has lots of *problems*, but it doesn't have much *violence*.

Now, violence is still a possibility, and death can still happen. Hit Points still exist, its just very unlikely that you will meet anything truly, exceptionally immediately physically dangerous in the first session, first adventure or even the first levels.

And when you do meet them, they will have complex needs and desires; not just be directly violent towards the PCs in particular.


Sub-Rule; If you walk around with a weapon drawn, new people/agents/NPC's /monsters, won't talk to you, most will just run away. High status NPCs will strongly criticise you. People will be afraid.





XP for FRIENDS and FOOD


Obviously the real treasure is the friends we made along the way.

So, XP for friends?

And/or, double XP for making two people or groups friends who weren't before?

And maybe TRIPLE XP for solving one of those complex open-ended problems the village has, like a lack of water, a bad sickness, a missing child or an alcoholic farmer (and by 'fix' I mean heal, you can't kill the farmer)


Optional Rule - XP for served food. I strikes me that one diegetic element which serves this softer play in a manner similar to that in which Gold serves standard Old-School play (encouraging ambition, conflict but also lateral thinking and problem solving), is food.

Sharing food with someone, being tolerated in their personal space, talking to them, being invited to share, are all major social milestones.

Kids bloody love food, as any kids series will show (I am also a fan myself). Getting special foods, and especially being *served* special foods, and sharing food and certain drinks, is almost a marker of your integration into local societies and your ability to integrate others.

If the old witch serves you Tea, that’s one point, if you can get her to bake you a cake, that’s another, or provide a feast for the Village, that’s a treasure hoard.

Of course the children/teens who manage to provide a feast for the Whole Village are going to be considered some badass motherfuckers (by Ru-D&D standards).







YEARLY PLAY


Every adventure takes place in a year, possibly even across seasons.

After the adventure concludes, a year passes. The results of the adventure are incorporated into the home/local PC environment and all the social webs and local hierarchies are updated before the next adventure begins.

This is also part of how the PCs 'level up', they are literally growing up at the same time.





LOCAL LANDS


Integration over time lessens the sociopathic elements of new character/player combinations, and invests people in the ongoing drama/development of their village or land.

So PCs are hobbits, at least socially. They start of young, and they have a place, like a village or something, and with each completed adventure they deepen their knowledge of and relationship with, that place.







COURTESY INSTEAD OF CHARISMA


Not sure about this one.

Traditionally in fairytales, courtesy is extremely super-important. The more polite and socially perceptive you are, the better, and protagonists who lose their shit always end up doomed.

But Charisma, as beauty and personal magnetism, fits better into the concept of an embodied quality rather than a quality which the player can perform and perfect. While courtesy is something which Players can very much be good at, or, more likely, screw up to interesting result.

HOWEVER

It might be engaging to be given a PC with very high or very low courtesy. It would give the player something interesting to play, especially if they were a child (the player) so it might be an engaging element of play regardless.

The idea of courtesy being in some way 'inborn' does match up with a fair amount of folklore/middle ages culture, where aspects we would think of as governed by descent and biology intermix much more fully in the minds of the observer.



Hmm, consider this Courteous Quest Generator

Here's those links aggaiiiin

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Friday, 8 May 2020

Thoughts on Street-Fighter - The Storytelling Game

Being a bizarre frankengame combination of;

> DICE POOLS,
> STORYGAMING (whatever the fuck that is),
> and SOOPACRUNCH,

You would think I would hate this but I actually found this tantalising.





TIME


This is from 1994, which, for anyone of my age is weird as shit. The 90's are as far away from me now as the 60's were in the 90's. I was about 13 when this book came out, the 60's seemed like truly ancient history to me then.

The cover art is magnificently bad. I think everything about it is wrong. Is there some kind of inverse square law about the quality of a cover vs the contents in RPG's?

As a young teen, the cooler kids would sneak off to a local arcade on lunch break and play Street Fighter. I attempted this and was bad at it. I did love to play Blanka though I JUST LIKE MONSTER DUDES.



I JUST REALLY LIKE BLANKA

Ok this is Blankas insane backstory from the book;

1. Child in plane crash, lands in jungle safely.
2. raised by a jaguar and becomes super athletic.
3. Catches virus from spider monkeys - makes him green and strong and fills him with electricity.
4. Can't control the electrical powers, until swimming with electrical eels teaches them how to do it.
5. Encounters escaped slave from a drug plantation.
5b. (Who happens to be a Capoeira master.)
6. Capoeira Master teaches Blanka Capoeira in the jungle.
7. Blanka becomes the protector of a local fishing village.

SIMPLE

I'm not joking but he is a great hero for Brazil.

Ryu and Ken are extremely boring.

Blanka and Dhalsim are clearly the best characters.







90'S ARCHNESS


Anyway, Time, perhaps the ultimate Street Fighter, has passed by since this book was created and punched a lot of blood out of the meat of culture. This was very clearly spewed out from the minds of a Japanese development team in the early 90's, the Street Fighter cast is made up from a mixture of almost but not quite national/cultural archetypes mixed in a blender with whatever seemed to work. A Yogic warrior man of peace wearing skulls and shooting flames? Mad psychic Thai dictator? Mutant green dude? 19 Year old amnesiac special forces badass who paints her legs camo? Bruce Lee knockoff? Sumo warrior? Russian wrestler who learnt to wrestle from fighting bears in Siberia? Seven-foot tall Native American in blue jeans with a feather in his hair? Spanish bullfighting ninja?

Fuck it! Throw them all in!








THE DICE POOL ENGINE


(Presumably anyone who knows about White Wolf games will already be familiar with this so feel free to ignore.

Oh the glory of counting large numbers of D10s...

Let me see if I can remember;

> Add a base stat to a more contextual stat.
> Roll that many D10's.

> Roll against a number for simple tests. Tasks have a 'difficulty rating from 3 to 9.
> Roll against each other for opposed tests.
> Keep rolling in subsequent turns for extended tests.

AND  - You have degrees of success, with the number of successes showing how well you did.



Flattening the Curve.

Any 1's reduce your total number of points (so large dice pools have an essential limiting factor, I think this would 'flatten the curve' at which characters grow more powerful.

If you roll more 1's than successes then you get a fumble/botch.

So as the difficulty goes up the likelihood of a disastrous fumble also does, even for characters rolling a lot of dice.




Auto-Success 

If the combined total of dice in the pool exceeds the difficulty of the task (which is usually measured as a number on the die) then you can get an auto mild success.

This is to speed up storytelling.

So that is the strange engine under the hood of the game - but it connects to two totally different cranks.

ONE - the storytelling engine, in which, its massively overcomplex for what its meant to be modelling. This is classic almost-linear path design where the pleasure comes from being in a story like those of genre fiction, where scenes and confrontations are expected, battles are encounter-balanced and the players are essentially playing through the story set by the DM.

Since this is all highly linear and since you are nearly on rails anyway rolling shitloads of d10s seems like overkill, since you are rolling for things that if you fail, will just quantum ogre their way back into your oncoming timeline.

HOWEVER - there could be an 'Inquisitor' style argument that simply modelling your character with this degree of fidelity and giving them all these options makes players think about and embody the imagined world in there own minds in a way that is pleasurable and which builds assumptions and intuitions which shape play.

(Inquisitor is very fiddly and labyrinthine but rolling for the micro specifics of combat is engrossing and interesting).

The SECOND thing the dice pool engine does is power a HIGHLY DETAILED FIGHTING GAME

And its the existence of this game and the way it interacts that makes the storytelling stuff bearable to me.

Like a good action movie almost everything about street fighter leads into and out of fights. The plot is just a series of morphic time tentacles to move characters into and out of combat where their actions will be modelled with enormous fidelity, and to lend a sense of meaning to those fights. So its ok for me if its vague and storytelly and if you don't really have a great deal of control over where the 'plot' is going because in the fighting arena, you have a HUGE amount of control.





BUILDING CHARACTERS


Honourable Wizards

There is a DUAL-TRACK fame system.

GLORY - is almost purely about how many dudes you beat up and how many fights you win
this is something like your fame and status amongst other fighters as judged by your fighting.

HONOUR - is almost like your superhero morality powers. ou gain honour for doing the right thing and lose it for being a heel.

Interesting thing is that while Glory only effects your social access honour has a mechanical benefit, having a high honour helps you recharge your willpower and CHI between fights. Chi is used to power most of the magical super-stuff, like fireballs and invisibility etc so that leads to the situation of wizard-style fighters having to be honourable good guys if they want to keep waxing those powers across adventures.

A pleasing curiosity.

It also lets you simulate interesting relationships with the imagined world which fit well the archetypes of the fighting genre;

The honourable, magical but not famous lone warrior.

The glam heel or physically powerful worlding hotshot, famous and strong but with low chi.

Do you truly understand the secret of Kung Fu or whatever, or are you just a massive dude? Are you Mr Myagi or Cobra Kai? Well here they are mechanically different



Other Stuff about Building Characters

Its... complex.

Might not be hugely complex compared to 5E but its unfamiliar to me. Very quickly;

STYLE - a big deal as you only get one and it raises and lowers the price of powers etc throughout character development.

Attributes- base stats, further broken down into Physical, Social and Mental and those further broken down.

Abilities - Standard RPG stuff, further broken down into 'Talents', 'Skills' and 'Knowledges' and yes that is a vague term.

Thats the top end of the character sheet, the mainly RPG stuff. Then we get into;

Advantages - which include 'Backgrounds' which is some classic RPG resources and social embedding stuff, and, hidden away in this section for some reason, 'Techniques' which aren't really important in a Street Fighter game, just some stuff about how good you are at Punching, Kicking, Blocking etc, you know, fighting.

The information dominance on the sheet is perhaps not what it could be.

THEN - next to that box - a list of 'Special Manoeuvres’ which are fighting special powers, which are in fact utterly vital and central to the game. (Also combos).

Finally down below, your Renown tracks, and next to that, Chi, Willpower and HEALTH.

So basically the fighting sections of the sheet are partially mixed in with everything else but, its not too bad as everything 'fighty' is in the lower right quadrant.

There are instructions on in what order to build a character but like most complex RPGS any idea of a linear sequence is largely an utter farrago as you will be going back and forth raising and lowering things and working out how to get a 'good' character until the process become intuitive.


There is a lot of good Street Fighter art but, just to be clear
VERY LITTLE OF IT IS IN THIS GAME



A THREE-DIMENSIONAL GAME


Ok the combat system

you play this on a hex map, with cardboard standees (provided in the back of the book) and little graphic maps printed on the hexes

A THIRD dimension of play - something added to the street fighter world, now you can not only be behind, before above or below someone, but also off to one side and there can even be a whole bunch of people there!

The wonderful pixel designs of the original game, again
definitely NOT IN THIS BOOK



COMBAT


The Initiative System

So, you have your hex map with your little dudes on it.

You have your CARDS - all that messing about with stats has been boiled down to a stack of cards, which you have with you, describing all the moves you can do.

1 - Everyone selects a card. This is secret and you can't change it.

So that narrows down the insane complexity of the characters and possible moves to a simple (or conceptually simple but actually quite deep) betting game - you think about what any other player is likely to do, and make a selection based on that. So everyone is considering each others abilities, intentions, tactics etc.

From then on the only deal is *how* you make that move.

2 - Everyone declares the Speed of that particular manoeuvre.

3 - Starting with the SLOWEST speed - characters first declare movement, then once movement is done, they declare their attack.

4 - INTERRUPTS. At *any point* during a characters movement - a player with a higher speed manoeuvre can shout "Interrupt!" and play their own manoeuvre, first moving, then declaring an attack.

And that person in turn can be interrupted, leading to a stacking of manoeuvre.

The attacks are resolved *downward* with the highest speed manoeuvre being accounted for first.

So, in this betting game having a slower speed means you move first, but have to declare yourself first, and can be interrupted many many times before you get to hit someone.

5 - Once the slowest character has completed their turn, go to the next slowest (assuming they didn't interrupt) etc.

What a bizarre and elegant system. It’s easy to imagine a complex multipolar fight going on with everyone wailing on each other - producing unpredictable shifts in movement which echo back 'down' the time-stream.




An Embodied Game

I have no idea how you would play this online without a shitload of the digital faffing about I usually hate.

First the Hex grid - a manageable problem.

Then selecting and holding cards - also digitally manageable, but irritating.

But then, shouting "Interrupt!" and the intense real world physicality and moment to moment timing of that - how could that be done over a call?

Combining all these things together I think you would need to almost re-jig the game to produce something easily playable online. It is such a pleasing *physical* process. Relying on eye-catch responsiveness and immediate momentary choices.

I like how the immediacy and time pressure plays upon the psychology of the *player* as well as he character - do you use your interrupt now or wait to interrupt an even faster character? Where are you in the sequence? Do you want to interrupt the only person below you, or wait in the hopes that other faster payers will burn their interrupts before you come up? Its very elegant.



Depth of Modding

Because you have Characters, 'Styles' which partially define them, and 'moves' which are chunky individual pieces of rules info - I can also see why this game is very open to modding and to just adding more and more stuff - because it has a Rules Commons. Once you create a new style, you can go back and apply it to any character, your own, or those of the imagined world.

And of course you can keep coming up with 'moves' and fighting styles with more and more granularity and invention if you wish.

You could do a 'hyper-real' Street Fighter game by just taking out the Chi powers and maybe making damage more consequential. You could also make it a WuShu fantasy by cranking that stuff up.




Depth of Play

I can see why this game still has fans because the way moves are selected, with everyone modelling each others assumed abilities and actions, on both the character and the player level, and then selecting a manoeuvre, and then considering when and how to interrupt, in an IRL environment with the complications of time pressure from the imaginary world AND from the time pressure of the card game from IRL, and add to that the fact that as you are playing both with and against different characters you are learning about their powers AND about the nature of the *Player*... All of this suggests to me a great possible depth of play.

The combination of 'teaming-up' and fighting each other, which is supported by the context of the game and its world, ("you are my comrade, but this round is *mine*") makes this a twin-axis game of co-operation AND managed competition without it necessarily breaking the game. PvP is not a fail state.

And since you are all learning systems mastery AND about each others characters and desires, and about the deisres OF the characters and their imgined nature, that could create a very fruitful space for gameplay and consideration.

Rules can run out of interest. Perhaps human interaction can run out of interest. But in Street Fighter you have rules, human interaction and changing character interaction all the time.


Another rather wonderful image which, I must say again
IS NOT IN THIS BOOK




Tuesday, 5 May 2020

The Mystery of Backstory Castle

And the readaloud maze

The osr diaspora is now successful enough and dispersed enough that no-one is in any danger of perceiving me as a leader and I can slink back to my comfortable position of cackling goblin irritant

anyway, watching everyone talk about what lessons do we teach about doing dungeons

and whats the principals of a trap

and we have to teach people how to think for themselves and not be dorks

for without the TEACHING DUNGEON - HOW SHALT ANYONE KNOW HOW TO DUNGEON AT ALL??

actually I was pretty jelly about all the attention everyone elses teaching dungeons were getting
and wanted onto that bandwagon

but then I thought about it for a second and realised


  • firstly that would be a lot of work
  • second I'm not that good at dungeon design anyway
  • thirdly isn;t the very nature of a teaching dungeon slightly boring anyway?


if you want to instil principals in people, isn't it a lot more fun to make...





THE WORST FUCKING DUNGEON EVER!!!




And so it was that I conceived the idea for Backstory Castle, home of the Readaloud Maze, created by the Wizard Bocht Techt purely to be some kind of fucking catastrophe that no-one ever went to

Or to be more precise I had the idea to have the idea of Backstory Castle. I didn't have any of the useful detail-like ideas about how it would work, instead I just thought of a dungeon that was just exactly and precisely the WORST in every possible way

as in, it taught exactly the wrong lessons, both to anyone reading it, anyone running it, and anyone playing in it

lets see if I can have any interesting ideas

I wonder how exquisitely bad we can make something




THE PATHETIC PRODUCTION



The Handout


There is a 128 page handout with full color pages so it prints horribly. It contains a long rambling history of the locality, with multiple generations of unmemorable characters who have ruled for generations. Make sure you spot the clue on page 37!



Compulsary Tie-In Novels


I expect there would be a novella's worth of flavor text about Goblin Boss Gloob's early life and how he came to serve Orc Boss Gark. So that when the climactic battle finally comes, we can see the fruition of this tale as Gloob stealthily fucks off while the PCs carve away Gark's 12hp.

Just like the RoS released important info through Fortnight, there are a series of Tie-In Novels about minor characters and (despite the insane lore dumps) you cannot understand the actions of major characters without buying and reading those novels.


Loathesome Layout


Id suggest moving even further into the depths of meta-contrition: perverse layout decisions, pictures with text encroaching their borders, broken links, nested indicies scattered throughout the text, random font switch 60% through, all printed/laid out horizontally in tabloid/broadhsheet format

Awful Index 



What about an index? Misspeled of course, and sourced from an earlier draft so that only 25% of the page numbers actually align with the topics? Sorted by page number so looking anything up involves starting at the top and working your way down.


Malefic Map


There's a beautiful, full-color, high rez map of the hidden gardens, crystal trees, grottos, glimmering pools, with twist and turns- but its really just one long hallway stacked on top of itself like an intestinal diagram. Nothing out side of the "rooms" (which are just circular areas) are labeled because you can't really do anything with them (e.g. the colored pools are just that).


I think we can definitely combine these - so a giant, 100+ page handout. Its longer than the adventure,

Lets say its formatted for neither US Letter OR A4 size, but could be easily mistaken for either. And if you print it in the wrong format important information is lost.

Full colour - hi rez. Full family and legendary history of everything. Vital hidden clue.


Foul Font


Print the whole thing in red ink on gray paper, in Fraktur font.




THE AWFUL AESTHETIC





Terrible Text Tone



  • "Uh, hey guys" rambling convesational gamer dad text
  • Daidacticly autistic hyperdense voice
  • LORE DUMPS



Fraternizing tone, something like "You surely know, oh gentle reader..."
Old memes or slang in writing.
introduce new, 'cool' words to address the readers or the process of play ("Playzzers" for simplest example); rename DM into something long and difficult to pronounce (Galactic Viceroy of Research Excellence, for the quick example) and never use any abbreviation, only the full title, in the text.


ONLY BEIGE OR VIRID PUKE


The only aesthetic tones in the adventure can be the most beige as fuck 5E-bait multiply-photocopied fantasy archetypes OR 'fuck you' low level but atavistic edgelord foultext - IT SUBVERTS YOUR EXPECTATIONS

"The Wizard Bocht Techt rises before you through a pillar of silvery smoke, silvery because it springs from the fountains of the feywild where Boch Techt learned this spell from his Elfen Maiden betrothed before the sad tragedy which seperated them in the Brown Eons many Oolthars (an orcish measure of time) ago. Techt is truly a hoary and sad figure with a long grey beard a tall conical cap upon which stars are ebroidered with a floppy brim. His robes are of the most midnight blue and flow around him like clothes hanging off an old man. They are also embroidered with mysteroius sigils of cryptic design [DC 15 Lore check to realise these sigils are in the language of the Eld Castle folk]. He wears fabulous but worn turkish slippers as if he came recently from his smokey study and smokes a DOUBLE BARRLED pile carved from old oak in the shape of a Griffons Claw (in memory of his defeat of such a beast during the Adventure of the Sleeping Ape), twin curls of silvery smoke as slivery as his sigils and his silver beard wind up from the griffin-clawed pipe his face smiles in a winsome yet also sad way as if weighted down by his many years of thinking about stuff but he has a mischevous gleam in his clever eye and carries a staff with a COCK ON IT BECAUSE THIS WIZARD FFFUUUUUUCCCCKS

"Greetings Adventurers" chuckles Bocht Techt, "hast though come to test mine maze?"

The wyzard wynks saucily.

"Or art thou down to fuck?"


POINTLESSLY RE-NAMED BUT STILL BEIGE AS FUCK MONSTERS!!


Orcs and goblins? No, this castle has Skri'therzm and Mocron-Reiru, which are a race of brutish, chaotic humanoids and race of shorter, brutish, chaotic humanoids. And the skeletons are called "darkbone haunters".

Yes! Glark is no longer a Goblin but a Mocron-Reiru!

'Darkbone Hunters' is too perfect - this wins Bocht Techts most flavourful award.






THE INANE INFORMATION DESIGN






BAD BOXED TEXT has to be an absolute must on every page


this is a big deal - Jason Cordova is trying to bring this stuff back and ONLY I IN MY LONELY GENIUS stand in his way

someone has to destroy boxed text forever and that someone is me

so, every major element has to have readaloud boxed text and that text has to introduce every element with its deep historical and thematic meaning FIRST, and at LENGTH, with any useful elements last, and also totally hidden in the huge block of spoken text

"This abyssal chamber was not included on the original plans for Backstory Castle due to the Time God Oct spilling a cuppa Hot Joe onto the plans during his meaningful tussle with the Sorcerer Bocht Techt during the Ovulation Wars of the Nightmare Age, a period forgotten by all. Nevertheless the architect Moongold, (lover of the Elf Queen Hyacinth) used meaningful magic to uncover the room plans during a Sorrowing Moon. The light of that moon impregnated the structure of the ten by ten room giving it a deep and sorrowful cast, something unknown to its current goblin occupant (absent on a d6 roll of 1+) as the sorcery has leeched away over the eons leaving only stone which holds up the ivory plinth on which the goblin sleeps. The plinth was stolen and is missing, leaving no trace and the goblin is out searching for it. The theives of the plinth used a mind eating magic to disguise its theft and any attempt to scry its location leads to instant level drain. This room has doors which lead both in and out."

hmm, what else is terrible?


Rancid Room Keys



we're going to need room keys after the read aloud text, right? Each room in the dungeon should take up four to five pages in the book. The room keys need to be hyper detailed to the point that they become useless as keys.

Also, why not key 25% of the rooms in pseudo-hexadecimal.

Room 9A2E. Mocron-Reiru living quarters.
7 beds.
→ bed 1. Not made.
→ → old blanket.
→ → → red, made of torn cotton.
→ → → → tear in left hand corner.
→ bed 2. Made, not well though, as if the goblin-reiru was in a hurry to make it. Probably had about 2 minutes to make the bed, with a deviation allowance of 45 seconds.
→ → blanket of blue, cotton. Pillow is straw stuffed into a bag.
→ → → straw bag was made 6 months ago by the farmer Gusa'gel'del'tonathon. The More-Reigru stole the bag from the farmer while he was milking a cow named [cow #1, page xx]
→ Bed 6. Not a bed, actually a chest.
→ → made of water logged wood.
→ → → wood was soaked 2 days ago, swollen.
→ → → → hinges made of steel. lock clasp made of iron. Chest weighs 12 lbs and 40 grams when lifted.
→ → → → → inside is 8 kg of gold.


"we're going to need room keys after the read aloud text, right?"
Ok, but consider, what if we didn't have room keys at all?

But alright, assuming room keys:
-Rooms missing a key entirely. It's not even 31. Tenth Kitchen, just Tenth Kitchen. (Yes we need a lot of kitchens, all similar and described in exquisite detail)
-Map keys referring to nonexistent rooms, obviously
-Skip a number, or a few. There is no room 52 on the map or in the entire adventure.
-There should be at least three different versions of room 51, all contradictory. (Was contradictory DM text mentioned already? A room needs to have a lich in it, and no lich in it at the same time.)

A few other ideas:
-NPC descriptions and NPC stats need to be at least 100 pages apart.
-This cannot use a gold or silver standard. It needs to have an electrum standard (a fact never mentioned anywhere), and a very elaborate money conversion system, with e.g. bronze coins worth 1/7th electrum. They're not referred as electrum or bronze of course, but with made-up names like "Third Dynasty grucats" and "sifs".
-Rename stats and classes for no reasons.
-Use a mix of multiple measurements. Feet and meters, lbs and kg and stones and slots.
-Somewhere in the dungeon there should be a portal to a whole world the DM must improvise out of thin air. What's the Grobulon Dimension? Fuck if I know, but it leads there. Or maybe a portal to literally anywhere. Take your setting's planet's map (you have a painfully detailed world map, right?) and roll coordinates at random! Oh, and 1d1000 years back in the past. Hope you have a detailed setting timeline.
-A magic item that mind controls the characters to railroad them into following The Plot.
-The big baddies use odiously powerful magic items (or tantalizing, really interesting items used in horrendously boring ways), which explicitly don't work (or outright disintegrate) if PCs use them, justified with obscure bullshit backstory reasons (if at all).
-OOOOH I FORGOT. Very important: the adventure needs a NPC that hires the party, then inevitably betrays them.
-(Also lots of traitorous monsters, and doppelgangers, so your players become paranoid forever.)



Every detail of any room has a separate DC to notice any particular detail, and a further DC to a history or knowledge check to determine in universe connections. Despite ostensibly a beginner dungeon, the challenge of the checks seem to have been calculated to be impossible for all but a maxxed-out optimised build level 20 character.

"The room has a stone flagged floor coloured dark grey (DC 15 perception to notice floor) laid out in the pattern of the sacred circles of Glarenthil (DC 30 arcana check to recognise this), it is a different stone from the walls (DC 20, Dwarf characters who took the stonemason background from appendix C may add 3 to their check) showing that the floor was added later and belies the history told to the characters by the hidden scroll from room 1_C (DC 17 intelligence check to make this connection). A rusted chandelier swings from the ceiling (DC 35 perception to notice chandelier), the trap on the chandelier (8d6 lightning damage, dexterity save 20 for half) will immediately be triggered unless the chandelier is noticed, and power word to disarm it is spoken (DC 25 Arcana Check to recognise the trap is disarmed by a code word DC 40 History (Backstory Castle) needed to recognise the disarm word is the name of the Elf Queen Hyacinth). Across the room is a bookcase (DC 18 Perception to notice bookcase) filled with dusty tomes (DC 20 arcana check to notice that there is nothing of value in the books which contain 19 cp worth of paper each). Glathnark the Mocron-Reiru Assassin is hiding behind the bookcase (looking behind the bookcase and succeeding in a dc 50 spot check will reveal the assassin) and will spring out and assassinate (Death attack auto hit, crit on 3+) the last in marching order if the characters pass through the room to the door on the other side (DC 15 perception to notice other door)."



Tortuous Tables


Tables are;

Boring; result one = One Orc. Result Two = Two Orcs. Result Three = Three Orcs

To be properly boring tables have to have a lot of the same *kind* of thing in them, differeing only in absract numbering and in no other way;

So;

result A - "Fifteen Leather-Clad Orcs accompanied to two goblin scouts. The Orcs are loyal to the Orc Boss Gark and are searching the halls for intruders."

Result B - "twelve goblins accompanied by five ferocious orcs clad in leather armour. The Goblins are loyal to the Goblin Boss Gloob, who serves the Orc Boss Gark faithfully out of fear. The Orcs serve Gark directly and think themselves better than the Goblins. All are armed with random weapons. Damage - by weapon."


Tables must be split over multiple spreads, either extended laterally with columns going partially onto the next spread, or vertically with rows going onto the next spread, or BOTH!

Tables must be extremely recursive, that is, to complete the roll of any particualr result, you must have to roll on another table, in a different part of the book, which also requires you to roll on ANOTHER table.

The more immedaiately necessary the result is the more recursive the table must be. And even better, some tables have multiple PATHS of recursion - to complete them you have to go to two differnt places in the book and reassemble the results!

So, result B, "twelve goblins accompanied by five ferocious orcs clad in leather armour. The Goblins are loyal to the Goblin Boss Gloob, who serves the Orc Boss Gark failthfully out of fear. The Orcs serve Gark directly and think themselves better than the Goblins*. All are armed with random weapons*. Damage - by weapon."

*See - Orc Motivation Table
*See - Random Weapon table pages 302 to 305 [Obviously this is satire, in the real adventure, no page numbers would be mentioned, you would just have to flip until you find stuff


Vague, Undifferentiated and Uninventive Content


Table results have to be totally uninventive, nothing you couldn't have come up with yourself, and they must be vague enough that they bring no solid diagetically concepts to mind. They should be useless for immediate purposes, badly wieghted so they produce incoherent results over long-term play, and also be very boring to read as a matter of game prep.

An example of Vague Results below

ORC MOTIVATIONS; (two column)

This Orc feels;
1 Angry
2 Wrathful
3 Raging
4 Frustrated
5 Aggressive
6 Hateful
7 Like fighting
8 In a Dark Mood

About
1 Resources
2 Starvation
3 Greed
4 lack of food
5 The Orc is hungry
6 The orc is frustrated
7 The Orc wants something
8 What it doesn't have


That's all I got right now. Feel free to do my work for me add your own ideas below, or in a blog post of your own, in the popular longrunning gygaxian democracy experiment - The Mystery of Backstory Castle!


Half of the tables' results are some form of "dm choice" or "pick other two". Especially the most important treasures are not defined.



Mind-Crushing Monster Stats!


I realise this is much too late, but an addition that would do wonders is if all the monster boxes vary by rule editions too. Darkbone Haunters are 3rd edition d&d, mocron-reiru are written with OD&D notation, each monster has an AC value, but you don't know if it's ascending ac or descending, some monsters use Target20 and some use THAC0 to attack. Some monsters have attack matrices (but not the same monsters that have OD&D notation).






THE APOCALYPTIC ADVENTURE DESIGN!





Nasty Nerfs!


The only thing that is easy to find is a full page near the front of the adventure explaining all of the spells which are NOT ALLOWED in the dungeon. "Techt has enchanted the area so that teleporting instead does 2d8/2 damage to the caster. Techt has enchanted the area so that divination give incorrect information most of the time."

Souless Subsystems!



In the adventure, or maybe a hangout, add a few new rule subsystem that emulate/simulate something in very minute and unnecessary details (such as mass breathing or camp-building, for example), and then insist that these rules variations are mandatory for this adventure, so players will have to learn and master them. Add one or two places in the adventure where these rules are absolutely essential for the victory, and then never bring them up ever again so at the end players will waste time learning and memorizing them.
Subsystems, of course, are either very bland or exceptionally intertwined or both.


Trash Traps!


The logic of traps and how they interact with the investigation of the imagined world is actually surprisingly subtle, with each version of doctrine having a different interaction with the players and DM and reaching its own meta-stasis over continued play - which actually makes forming a truly, exactly, nightmarishly BAD trap quite a complex equation

lets see what we can consider

Inconsistency - not only must the methodology of the traps be inconsistent *within the diagesis* i.e. it must make no sense when considering the structure of the imagined world

but it must also be inconstant as a matter of design

Types of Traps

the gygaxian tomb of horrors trap - something designed specifically for *adventureres* and to fuck over people who do stuff like D&D players, like HA HA HA YOU THOUGHT AHEAD YOU TWATS!!

the naturalistic vietcong trap - something designed in-world in exactly the way taht an in world agent would make it for in-world reasons - genuinely very hard to find and genuinely potentially deadly but since it follows the logic of that reality, something that can be learnt and ultimately accounted for

the chris mcdowall trap - potentially dangerous but always signalled in some form. The trap as 'problem' primarily, its danger only serving to force investigation and thought, a potential killer but not truly designed to kill

the storygames trap - a trap which is actually an 'event', like a bottle episode of a tv series set in a dungeon. potentially somewhat dangerous but primarily created to prompt complex DRAMA - I hope you wrote an EXTENSIVE BACKSTORY because now you will be reading it out at length to each other.

the NUMBERS trap - like that guy, I forget his name but he makes everything numbers? The torchbearer guy. This trap reduces one particular rules factor on your character sheet by a SPECIFIC NUMEBR oh fuck I hope you don't have to calibrate the equations in the excel sheet you are using to work out who the fuck you are!!

the "dick or dog" Raggi Trap - the trap which puts the pcs and the players into a dirtbag-spiderman style MORAL QUANDRY - do you release the RAPE VAMPIRE? or RAPE the MEAT BUYER? well you have to do ONE OR OTHE OTHER  or the WORLD WILL END!! BECAUSE OF YOU! ITS YOUR OWN FAULT FOR GOING ON AN ADVENTURE YOU FOOOOOOLS


Troubling Trap warnings and Stupid Expectation Setting


There have to be warnings about what kinds of trap you will be facing in Backstory Castle, and those warnings have to be (long and boring and readaloud boxed text of course) and probably also in riddle form, but they also have to be just useful enough that its worth listening to them - they will actially predict something about the traps.

And then they will fail totally because soemthing utterly incoherent will happen and none of it will make any sense.




Moronic Mono-Motivated Monsters


Only Orcs, Goblins, Skelingtons and RAPE ENGINES exist in Backstory Castle and there are sure as fuck no warnings about the last one.

And there are lots of Orcs and Goblins and Skeletons.

And the Goblins sure as fuck don't do anything interesting.

No monster in Backstory Castle wants anything except to stop you going through its room and they all wait in their rooms doing nothing but waiting until you arrive. No monster has any relation with any other. The Goblins have no tricks.

They do have backstory though. Individual and in-depth backstories.




Awful Encounters


Untill they aren't.

Half of the place has careful encounter balance to ensure there's no actual risk of permanent player consequences (the horror!), and then the other half is full of "fuck you, you die instantly with no countermeasure" challenges, and there's no way to tell which is which amidst all the complex backstory and wording.


Many encounters have notes about adjusting the "difficulty", like "if you think your player are steamrolling the dungeon you can add 1d6 goblins in room 2B and 3d6 Mocron-Reiru in room XII"

No matter what the players are doing, no matter how innocuous the situation is, randomly stop and ask them to detail their actions and locations exactly like they're about to be ambushed.
Sometimes they are. Sometimes it's a really bad trap. Sometimes you just let out a sigh and say "ok, let's move on". There is no pattern.
Also, combat is officially played out on a grid but the DM must ignore the grid and run it as theater of the mind without telling players. Or vice versa. Lots of "how long are your arms" questions and wankery involving what exactly a flail does to a shield in 1400's Brittany, France.


Turgid Treasures! 


What about treasures? There ought to be just enough gold to make it feel like someone is making fun of you. 1d6 electrum pieces (electrum because it's a pain to manage) in a trapped chest?
A chest in every room with the same trap and the same reward perhaps?

I am reluctant to allow any meaningful treasures but I will accept - random piles of copper coins five meters deep. Half of the coins are actually a 3/4 copper/electrum mix (so you have to calculate the precise value. They have been painted to look like the copper coins which they are mixed in with. They have also been enchanted to explode if examined. The coins are also cursed.



Empty Rooms!


Room after room after room after room after room after room after room after room after room after room after room after BOOM CAMOFLAUGED RAPE ENGINE -

"I gotcha!" Chuckels Bocht Techt emerging from a hidden hole, "now thou are porke'd fore sure, unless thou answerest my mine riddles three!"


Evil Encumbrance!


What's the most fun part of dungeons? Tracking encumbrance. So this book will have it covered. It should go above and beyond and require the player to track their calorie intake, fatigue and hydration because all those things will impact how much they can carry.

Not sure how to track it? There will be maths equations the player has to use to track what their encumbrance level is. Half the rules are in the main book with the remaining rules in a supplement. The importance of tracking encumbrance is inconsistently linked to how some traps function. Progress is impossible without the excruciatingly detailed encumbrance rules.




YOU LIVE YOU DIE YOU LIVE AGAIN!




There is no escape from Backstory Castle! He he heeee

the Wizard Bocht Techt made a sorcery on it so that if you die in the Readaloud Maze you come back to life in a random place in the maze - just like Doom and the year 2020AD; the only way out is through!


Specifically detailed ending script, maybe with multiple options. But they're shitty, like a video game "which of these three levers do you pull" ending.

A long-winded and overly detailed explanation of What Happens Next that expects you to build your entire campaign around this dungeon. Intricate details about the plans of the various NPCs that leave no room for player interaction. The adventure railroads the GM.

Similarly long-winded "where to place this dungeon" section that covers where, exactly, down to the hex or grid coordinate, where you are SUPPOSED to place this dungeon in fifteen different published settings including specific NPCs who have But Thou Must'ed the PCs into entering the dungeon. Absolutely no advice on integrating it with a homebrew setting.